Meeting the miners made me truly respect this hard life - The Mine Tour

Potosi was established by the Spanish more than 400 years ago because of the huge resources of silver hidden in the surrounding mountains. Potosi is also called as the „rich town”. Believe it or not, because of the poor technical conditions, the exploitation in the mines is still made by humans in 8-hour shifts. The tour to the mines not only gives the opportunity to see how a mine looks like, but is the unique occasion to meet those miners who work down in the dark and deep stomach of the mountain.

The tour started with getting dressed in special clothing, boots and helmet. This already made me think of the possible dangers I might face down there. But the fact that our tour guide, Antonio used to work in these mines for 5 years, made me feel secure. So we rather started a fashion show.

Getting ready for the miner mission

First we visited the market – little shops – where the miners buy the necessary equipments for the day: coca leaves to filter the flying powder; catalysator made of banana to make the filtering effect more efficient; 98% of alcohol for claustrophobia and for sacrifice against the bad vibes; and dynamite. The boys in the group were especially enthusiastic about the last one. Actually everyone except of me, because I was the only girl in the group. Pants on!

Antonio showing us the package for miners

The dynamite
Then we climbed down in the mine. Do not imagine elevators or equipments which takes you down. No! We climbed down on rocks, sometimes almost totally vertically, were sliding in the muddy water, were walking on our hands up and down. I totally got lost in the labyrinth. Antonio, however, always looked confident about where we were. The only thing which I was confident about was that I would never like to be a miner. Dark and muddy, dusty and tight. You breath in gases and powder. Not as if these miners have had other option for work.

Entrance of the mine washed with lama blood
Antonio told us that the miners start working at the age of 14. Within 10 years their lungs get polluted irreversibly, and within the next 10 years most of them die. Antonio already lost his grandfather and father, and he decided to quit this job before it was too late. The miners make sacrifice for the Pacha Mama every day asking her to survive till the next day. We also made our sacrifice which we finished with exploding the dynamite. We put together and exploded a real dynamite! 

Antonio making sacrifice for the "Tios"
Before putting together the dynamite
Antonio lights the dynamite.. then run!

After having climbed down 200 meters deep and walking in the labyrinths for 4 hours, wading through muddy puddles in the dark, caughing of powder and sweating, walking besides dangerous and toxical rocks, having met miners carrying 30 kilos of silver on their shoulders; finally we got out to the fresh-aired sunset and wished that we'd never go back again. It was an unforgettable tour and all my respect to these guys who work in the deep to bring up the silver, knowing that this is their only way to survive, but this is what takes their lives, too.

About Tiny Girl With Big Bag

Hobby writer and autodidact photographer whose passion is to travel and get to know new people and cultures. She has been on 4 continents and 30 countries, and the outcome is this travel blog where she shares travel stories, thoughts, tips and photography always through a subjective eye.

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