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Potosi (mines) and Tarija (wine region)

Bolivia | Monday, June 22, 2015 | 10 photos

We visited the mines in Potosi ( 4070m-13353ft). Often claimed to be the highest city in the world. The Cerro Rico (Spanish for "Rich Mountain"), the mountain's huge supply of silver led to both immense riches for the Spanish Empire and appalling suffering for the indigenous miners. There is no silver left now but people still extract zinc and tin. Work conditions are very rudimentary and not very safe. Interesting link: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/potosi-silver-mines

It was a very interesting experience and at the same time quite hard physically and emotionally. We met several miners working in the cramped dark and dusty tunnels. We heard dynamite explosion several times, quite scary. People working in the mines make usually more money than other jobs but at what price!:-( It felt rather awkward to know that people still work in these unsafe and hard conditions. Many of them eventually develop pulmonary diseases like silicosis. Plus what's crazy is that miners have to buy their own (expensive) personal protective equipment, which means of course that they rarely buy them. When you have an occupational health and safety background like me you can't help but think about these things! :-(

Potosi is not a very nice city to just hang out so we left the next day for Tarija (1850m-6069ft), in southern Bolivia near the border with Argentina, famous as the wine region of Bolivia. We spent several relaxing "doing nothing" ;-) days in Tarija. It's a very nice, quiet, slow and clean city with no tourists (except us it seems!). Weather was nice. It sometimes almost felt like we missed the crowds of tourists ;-)

We of course visited several vineyards and the wine was actually rather good - much better than Peru and almost as good as Argentina. We had never tried wine from Bolivia before, normal since we were told it's almost never exported. They claim to be the highest vineyards in the world at 2200m-6600ft. We also ate a lot of excellent meat (parillada- grilled meat on charcoal) like in Argentina. We really enjoyed eating red meat because normally the only meat one finds in Peru and Bolivia is chicken.

Today, on Father's Day (btw Happy Father's Day to all the fathers reading this blog! :-), we are leaving for Tupiza that is a small town between here and the salt desert of Uyuni. Our time in Bolivia is nearing its end. :-(

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Hawaii Nov. 2014

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