The pool dive yesterday was just practice. Today was the real thing: at 7:30am we were on the boat (little dinghy from Sairee beach, then we transferred to a big boat for the actual diving); and by 9am, my first ever scuba dive had begun. All scuba diving must be done with a buddy — and for today, my buddy was Alex. Once again, the deep-sea Dutchman Flav was my instructor. By midday, we'd completed two dives — to a depth of 12m, and at the sites of The Twins and White Rock. Contrary to my tip-top expectations, real diving proved to be quite a challenge: but I survived the ordeal, and I'm ready for whatever the next day holds in store.
It seems that everyone else around here is doing it, so I thought I might as well give it a shot too. Today I set off with a little group — two English girls, Helen and Amy, and our guide Victor (from Sierra Nevada, the same tour company that I went cycling with yesterday) — to go and climb Volcán Villarrica, the enormous snow-covered volcano that looms over Pucón. At a mere 2,847m asl — and with such a good path, and such good snow-cover, that we didn't even need to use crampons — today's climb was really a walk in the park for me, compared to last week's Cotopaxi climb. Especially since we had a much more fun way of getting down than plain old walking.
Today, I went on the famous tour of the mines of Potosí: the No. 1 thing to do here in Potosí, and the main reason why tourists come to this town at all. The tour was very dark, very cramped, very asphyxiating, and very disturbing. The mountain of Cerro Rico currently has 15,000 miners working in 400 mines, in positively hellish conditions. The mountain has been constantly mined for over 400 years. Experts predicted about 10 years ago that the mountain had about 7 years left, before the whole thing came crashing down, due to its foundations being literally "undermined". And it's still going.
After three days here, Chris and I have already had enough of La Paz: we're off to the jungle! Today, we hopped on a plane with Línea Aérea Amaszonas, and flew north to the town of Rurrenabaque. It was either a 50-minute flight, or a 20-hour bus ride on a very bad road. Seeing that we've already done the whole long-bumpy-dangerous-road-to-the-jungle thing in Peru, we opted for the former. In Rurrenabaque, we're going to go exploring the pampas and the jungle. Should be fun.