This week I will finally travel to Sucre, the city in Bolivia where I originally wanted to move (although I very much love it here in Cochabamba now). I hope I won’t be completely blinded by the famous whiteness of the old town of Bolivia’s constitutional capital.
And I hope I will find enough time to do some hiking outside of the town, discover dinosaur tracks, wander on Inca roads, visit traditional villages and climb Cerro Obispo or another mountain.
Then, I will take the train from Sucre to Potosí. The funny thing is that even most people in Sucre don’t know that this train exists. Ever since I have announced this plan, Bolivians have been telling me “there is no train”. But I read about it in a book (ok, maybe it was from two centuries ago) and I even found a photo of it:
Anyway, when I come back I’ll be able to tell you if the famous train is still running or not.
Potosí: Ever since I read the book “1493”, I have wanted to visit this town which not many people outside of South America know about, but which was once – at the same time – the highest (at 4,090 meters) major city in the world, the richest city in the world, the most populous city in the Americas and the most brutal city in the world. All of this was due to one mountain, Cerro Rico, filled with enough silver to finance the Spanish Empire and the Spanish wars in Europe.
The big silver boom is over, the town no longer fuels the world economy, but the mining continues. That there is still some silver (and tin ore) to be found after 470 years of mining gives you an idea of the size of the deposit. And the mining is just as tough and as dangerous as it was 400 years ago. Maybe even more so because of the number of shafts that have been drilled into the mountain, which might collapse any day.
Obviously, I want to both climb the mountain (4,782 meters, which would be a new altitude record for me) and to go into the mines. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the possibility of being as high as I have ever been (Cerro Rico is almost as high as Mont Blanc) and being deep in a pitch-dark mine at the same time. Bolivia, the country of crazy records.
If you want a postcard, let me know. I will try to send it before going into the mine, just in case.
I love Potosí, it’s not exactly “pretty”, but I really enjoy how rough it is around the edges. If you’re planning on taking a mine tour, try to go there on a Friday, that’s when all the workers get REALLY fucked up – and it’s all one great party. Really surreal experience!
Yes, I also got became more and more interested, the more Bolivians told me that it’s an ugly or cold or even a sad place. I am generally interested in places that were once great, important and beautiful and are now shadows of their former selves.
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It looks amazing. I hope you get to climb the mountain and go into the mines.