Potosi is a city in Bolivia, best known on the tourist trail for the Cerro Rico mine. This is an active silver mine and tourists can be guided deep into the mountain to see the workings of the mine.
At the beginning of the tour, tourists are encouraged to purchase gifts for the miners, including cigarettes, juice, dynamite and coca leaves (all the usual healthy stuff!).
The conditions in the mine may come as a shock to some, there are very young boys working in the mines and due to the heat extreme the miners are often shirtless and not all of them wear protective hats. Tourists however are kitted out in full safety gear before commencing the tour and we were given bandanas to wear around our noses and mouths to protect from the dust.
The tour does get hotter, dustier and more claustrophobic the further into the mine you get. Michael is 6’6 and he struggled near the end to fit into the tight holes and climb through the small corridors. The tour company we went with was called Koala Tours and the guide who led us into the mine had worked as a miner himself. The tour not only includes going into the mine, but you also visit a refinery at the start of the tour and at the end there is opportunity to detonate some dynamite, which was pretty cool.
We enjoyed the mine tour, however it is definitely not recommended for people who do not feel comfortable in very tight spaces, as it is very hot, dusty and uncomfortable down there. You also need to be relatively fit as you are required to climb up and down ladders. Out of our group about 50% did not make it to the end of the mine tour due to the conditions.
We didn’t stay in Potosi as we were able to get the afternoon bus down to Uyuni, to see the amazing salt flats…