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Potosi, Bolivia - Take A Tour Of The Mines

Bolivia experiences and stories by a backpacker - October 2011   » View Photoset (44 Photos)

I spent nearly 3 weeks in Potosi in late 2011, partly as a tourist and partly because I was waiting for a new passport to be sent from home to replace my now expired old one. My stay in Potosi was broken up with a trip to Sucre and Tupiza before I returned to continue waiting, the problem was that the miners had blocked the road so that the traffic and trucks with the mail couldn't get through. I stayed in the same budget and good hotel the whole time, it wasn't up the hill in the historical center, it was down the hill opposite the old bus terminal. 90 Bolivianos ($13USD) for double bed, bathroom and cable tv. I had arrived in Potosi from Uyuni and planned to do a tour of the silver mines at the mountain Cerro Rico and also have a look around the city. Potosi is at 4090 meters above sea and gets quite cold. The city has an over-abundance of fried chicken restaurants, it's a little hit and miss how your stomach will feel a short time after eating at some of these places. The best place I enjoyed eating breakfasts and lunches was at the market just up the road from where I was staying. Soups with potatoes and meat/chicken for 4 Bolivianos (60c) and meals with rice, meat/chicken, black potatoes and spagetti for 9 Bolivianos ($1.30USD). Also in the mornings around the city you can sit down in the street and have a hot coffee with crunchy fried sugar pancake things, which are really yummy. I would buy food at the market to cook a meal on my hotplate in my room at night. I explored Potosi by foot discovering its buildings, monuments, parks and streets. The local people were friendly and helpful. Up the road from me was a monument to the local soccer team Real Potosi with a player dressed in a purple uniform. Further up closer to the historical center is the Monumento al Minero, monument to the silver miners. Simon Bolivar rides his horse in a monument opposite Plaza San Bernardo which has an impressive church made from boulders, Iglesia San Bernardo. The plaza has 5 bronze heads of important men in the gardens, all nameless without plaques. I walked through the market Mercado Gremial on my way to the central park in the middle of the historical area. Here I found the Cathedral built in the 16th century beside the park where there are few other things to see like the Statue of Liberty-like monument in the middle and the guitar monument called Potosi Cuna del Charrango. Leading up from the park are a set of 6 white and gold archways, the arches were built in the 18th century but demolished in the early decades of the 20th century. They were rebuilt in December 1995. The tall column monument also located here is in memory of Simon Bolivar. At the top of this walkway is the main area where all the people hangout, socialize and shop, the Alonso de Ibanez monument stands in the middle. The streets around this area are interesting to explore. There are several churches including Iglesia San Francisco also made from boulders, as well there is the beautiful Iglesia Santo Domingo with its impressive bell tower and 6 bells. A statue of Fray Vicente Bernedo stands in the park and courtyard area beside the church. There is Santa Teresa church, it's bright orange and was built in 1685, it has a 3 bell tower. The others I found were Iglesia Jerusalem, orangy yellow, Iglesia San Lorenzo, made from stone and the white domes of Iglesia San Benito. Located down the road a little from the central park I found the office of Real Deal Tours, I was ready to book a tour to see the silver mines at Cerro Rico. The price for a 4hr tour including lunch afterwards cost 100 Bolivianos ($14USD). We met the next morning at their office, just 3 people in my group, a good number. The driver took us and our guide to a location where we got changed into mining cloths, overalls, jackets, helmets with lights and gumboots. Next we went to the miners market where we were encouraged to buy some things for any miners we would meet along the way, coca leaves and a bottle of orange juice. We took a few photos of Potosi city from up here and then went to the rooms where the processing goes on called the Sala de Reactivos. We were shown how the silver gets extracted from the rocks, a lot of belts turning tubs of water. Outside we handed out some coca leaves to a few miners and made our way to the mine entrance where we began a 3km walk underground which lasted 2hrs. It was quite wet and muddy in there for the first bit, we met a pair of miners pushing a trolley along the track and gave them a bottle of orange juice and coca. They were sweating like mad and very thankful. The tunnel was quite cold but got hot in parts also, it got dryer the deeper we got in. You could see the glittering of silver on the walls. We stopped at this colorful freaky shrine for a few minutes, we gave him some coca too. We climbed up ladders a couple of times, one was actually about 3 ladders. At some point we came to an area of green stalactites hanging down from the roof of the tunnel. We eventually made it out the other side of the mountain to the outside world. We were taken to a restaurant near the tour office after changing back into our cloths and had a nice lunch of hamburgers and fries. Our tour and guide was great, I recommend Real Deal Tours for sure. I left Potosi from the new bus terminal which is 7mins by taxi from the center of town, to visit Sucre, the journey took 3hrs 30mins.

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My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Potosi, Bolivia:

Alojamiento Killa, Potosi, Bolivia - Large Photo
Alojamiento Killa, Potosi, Bolivia (Oct/Nov 2011 - 19 nights) - I stayed here for several weeks while waiting for papers to arrive from home. I had a nice room on the 3rd floor with bathroom and cable tv. The cost was $13USD per day. It is located opposite the old bus terminal down the hill from the historical center. Recommended.

Distances & times (if available) from Potosi (Bolivia) to:
 A : Uyuni to Potosi - Bolivia 67 kms 67 kms straight distance | 1hr 30mins 1hr 30mins by car (95 kms) | 1hr 48mins 1hr 48mins by bus (95 kms) (95 kms)
 B : Sucre - Bolivia 77 kms 77 kms straight distance | 3hrs 7mins 3hrs 7mins by car (166 kms) | 3hrs 44mins 3hrs 44mins by bus (166 kms) (166 kms)
 C : Uyuni & the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) - Bolivia 148 kms 148 kms straight distance | 3hrs 9mins 3hrs 9mins by car (202 kms) | 3hrs 46mins 3hrs 46mins by bus (202 kms) (202 kms)
 D : Tupiza - Bolivia 208 kms 208 kms straight distance | 4hrs 4mins 4hrs 4mins by car (256 kms) | 4hrs 52mins 4hrs 52mins by bus (256 kms) (256 kms)
 E : Tupiza via Atocha to Uyuni - Bolivia 158 kms 158 kms straight distance | 5hrs 24mins 5hrs 24mins by car (302 kms) | 6hrs 28mins 6hrs 28mins by bus (302 kms) (302 kms)
 F : Oruro - Bolivia 229 kms 229 kms straight distance | 4hrs 35mins 4hrs 35mins by car (319 kms) | 5hrs 30mins 5hrs 30mins by bus (319 kms) (319 kms)
 G : Villazon & Argentinian Border - Bolivia 279 kms 279 kms straight distance | 5hrs 21mins 5hrs 21mins by car (347 kms) | 6hrs 25mins 6hrs 25mins by bus (347 kms) (347 kms)
 H : Tarija - Bolivia 240 kms 240 kms straight distance | 5hrs 51mins 5hrs 51mins by car (349 kms) | 7hrs 1min 7hrs 1min by bus (349 kms) (349 kms)
 I : La Quiaca & Bolivian Border - Argentina 282 kms 282 kms straight distance | 5hrs 28mins 5hrs 28mins by car (349 kms) | 6hrs 33mins 6hrs 33mins by bus (349 kms) (349 kms)
 J : La Quiaca to Jujuy - Argentina 406 kms 406 kms straight distance | 7hrs 16mins 7hrs 16mins by car (504 kms) | 8hrs 43mins 8hrs 43mins by bus (504 kms) (504 kms)
 K : Cochabamba - Bolivia 246 kms 246 kms straight distance | 7hrs 51mins 7hrs 51mins by car (506 kms) | 9hrs 25mins 9hrs 25mins by bus (506 kms) (506 kms)
 L : La Paz - Bolivia 422 kms 422 kms straight distance | 7hrs 7hrs by car (524 kms) | 8hrs 24mins 8hrs 24mins by bus (524 kms) (524 kms)
 M : Bermejo & Aguas Blancas Border - Bolivia 381 kms 381 kms straight distance | 8hrs 38mins 8hrs 38mins by car (540 kms) | 10hrs 21mins 10hrs 21mins by bus (540 kms) (540 kms)
 N : Santa Cruz - Bolivia 331 kms 331 kms straight distance | 13hrs 47mins 13hrs 47mins by car (653 kms) | 16hrs 32mins 16hrs 32mins by bus (653 kms) (653 kms)
 O : Gran Chaco to Santa Cruz - Bolivia 371 kms 371 kms straight distance | 16hrs 25mins 16hrs 25mins by car (807 kms) | 19hrs 42mins 19hrs 42mins by bus (807 kms) (807 kms)
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.
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