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13.10. Tue (461) Potosi (4070 m above sea level)

In the city there was a lot to see. The architecture was beautiful. Potosi is a city of 120,000 inhabitants. It was founded by the Spanish conquistadores nearly 500 years ago. They discovered silver there and so the city was formed. The silver mines are a couple of kilometres away from the city of Potosi.


A church in Potosi. On the background the Sumac Orko mountain and silver mines.

In the city were lots of 'rice-chicken-french fries' fast food restaurants, where you could fill your stomach spending just one dollar. Eating didn't cost practically anything.

15.10. Thu (463) Potosi

There was a possibility to visit the silver mines. Some travel agencies arrange tours there. A visit costs $5 per person. With the tourist group I had met in Chile we visited there.

The name of the mountain is Sumac Orko in Quechua language. By the way, the 'campesinos', the people that live in the countryside don't speak Spanish so well. Their languages are the original local languages: Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní.

We went near to the mine area by bus. First we (all the tourists) bought some necessary stuff for the miners, that they needed in the mining work. The necessities were: pure alcohol (for drinking), coca leaves (for refreshment) and dynamite, gloves, etc.

First there in the mine area we saw an explosion demonstration. What a bang and just one small piece of dynamite! Then we got boots and rainsuits and torches. They were of some ancient model, they operated with gas. There was a bottle, where was put some crystals and water. The crystals reacted with the water and produced gas, which burned in the torch.

We entered the mines with a guide. Inside there were no lights, but only what we had got. The tunnel was sometimes just 120 cm high and 50 cm wide. Difficult to walk! Stressful place. Sometimes there were caves/holes in the path. One of them was 5 metres deep. I almost fell in there, as my torch refused to work properly and it was difficult to see the way.

The paths were like a labyrint. The miners dig the rocks with ancient methods: with a hammer and an iron bar. A miner could 'drill' a hole for the dynamite stick into the rock one inch in two or three hours. Sometimes they used dynamite, but not often, as they said it's expensive.

The guide interwiewed some of them (in Quechua): they were 45 to 46 years old and had worked in the mines 35 to 36 years! Started at age of 10! ...and still alive. There were also some boys working. They usually worked some years and then bought a one-way ticket to Argentina, where they worked then as construction men.

No women worked in the mines. It was believed that women working there would bring bad luck. Some old women worked outside the mines, eradicating silver with hammer from the once used stones. Their husbands had died in the mines long time ago in some accident. We gave for the old women some coca leaves and pure alcohol (90%) for refreshment.

The older miners owned one small part of the mine. They were then responsible of the production and the safety in that area. They secured the roofs, etc. So it was their own safety, as well. First they dig the rocks, then carried the stones out in a backpack. 60 times a day, 50 kgs each! And through tiny, dangerous paths! We, tourists could walk slowly, the miners RAN having the burden on their back!!

We were told that during the Spanish colonialism (300 years) in the mines died eight million people! 47,000 tons of silver was transported to Spain during the 300 years from Potosi.

In Buenos Aires I had visited a church (just because it was a beautiful building, I'm not religious :) The church was built during the Spanish colonial times. There was lots of Inca gold used. Now in Potosi I had an idea, how horrible way it had been produced.

16.10. Thu (464) Potosi Sucre (2800 m above sea level)

Moving ahead towards North. The next city was Sucre. Luckily I didn't have to carry the tyres anymore. I had carried them for 5,500 kms from Buenos Aires! The road was asphalt, the first time since the border of Chile. Great.

The people guided me the way out of the city, to the beginning of the road to Potosi. In South American rural roads there aren't road signs very often.

Washing the drive chain with gasoline from dusts & lubricating with oil, after the 530 kms riding in the Uyuni desert and earth tracks.

When arriving to Sucre, in the very first crossroads I met a DR800 biker! He had a blue Suzuki DR800. He was possibly the one and only DR800 rider in Bolivia. So what a coincidence that I had met him. He had bought his bike from a Swiss world traveller. His name was Guido Valda.

When I entered to Sucre for the first time, I was surprised how beautiful the town was! Incredible. Especially the center, 'La Plaza'.

He and his wife, Sonja had a pharmacy. There I met one Lizbeth in the evening... Previously I had planned to pass Sucre at the same time or stay just one night.

In party mode!... again

17.10. Sat (465) Sucre

At noon in the center, at Plaza was a fiesta! It was actually a carnival, where were lots of dancers and two brass bands. Maybe 300 dancers performing. The dance was called Diablada. It was 'La Entrada de la Virgen de Guadalupe' (The Arrival of the Virgin of Guadalupe).

Lizbeth was dancing Diablada there too! Great fiesta!!!

22.10. Thu (470) Sucre

Guido helped me in buying some spare parts. The only difficulty was to find the bike shops. At Imcruz, the local Suzuki dealer, there was possibility to buy the needed spares.

As also in Bolivia - as in many other countries - the DR800 is not in the importation program, but the DR650 is. Luckily some spares are the same, for example: oil filter and balancer chain. Cam chain is in DR650 basically the same, but 9 links longer than in DR800. I bought those all. In Bolivia the spare parts cost three times less than in Finland or Argentina, for example.
We also bought the engine oil for my bike. It was put into a plastic bag! What?? How can it be carried to the service that way? :) That's how it is done in Bolivia. Saving the costs :) ...canned oil is much more expensive.

Guido's friend, a motorcycle mechanic took my bike for checking. The engine made some noise. The reason was a worn-out balancer chain and too big valve clearances, I thought. I had ridden more than 60,000 kms. The mechanic couldn't change the chain, special tools were needed.

24.10. Sat (472) Sucre

I met Lizbeth's family the first time, parents & other family members. We had a marvellous lunch together!

Near the city of Sucre mountains there is a world historical sight, that now belongs to the Patrimony of the World. That is Footprints of the Dinosaurs, Huellas de Dinosaurios. The place is five kilometres away from the city. The footprints were formed some 100 million years ago. Where nowadays is the city of Sucre, at the same place was long time ago a lake. The animals used the same path there when going to drink. The footprints are now on a wall formation. Long time ago it was flat ground, like horizontal, but later there arose more mountains and the flat place rose up to 45 degrees angle.
Path of the dinosaurs

There can be seen many different types of footprints. The biggest footprints belonged to dinosaurs that were bigger animals than elephant. In some of the footprints were three 'fingers/toes' in front and one backwards. Like a footprint of a bird, but 100 times bigger. Those belonged to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Unfortunately a local cement factory started to operate there and destroyed almost all of the footprints as the stone material was suitable for making cement.

Luckily, a couple of years ago some engineer understood what was the meaning of the prints in the rock and then the cement factory Fancesa was ordered to move their machines out of there. Now there are plans to shield the footprints with plastic, but it is an expensive project. There is a need to this as that cement is not very durable. The footprints may be destroyed due to erosion after some decades, I guess :(

30.10. Fri (478) Sucre

I could do the maintenance work for my bike at the Imcruz. Problem was the worn-out balancer chain. They let me do the work by myself, I could borrow some tools too. Sometimes the mechanics helped me. Great! It was a bigger job than I expected, I had to leave it for next day.

31.10. Sat (479) Sucre

At 8:00 am to Imcruz. The workshop manager, Antonio Sainz helped in the maintenance. We discovered some damage in the engine too. The lug of cam shaft was broken. It had to get welded. Also there was some scratches in the other cam... One chain guide was wrongly assembled in Brazil, it was the reason.

We finished the work afternoon, they helped and overworked because of the maintenence! Very friendly. They gave the oil and all that was FREE! ...The running sound of the machine was like of a new one :)

4.11. Wed (483) Sucre

I got more and more attracted to that girl (Lizbeth) I had met :)
Via Internet, I sent some work applications, also to Nokia, which was my previous work place.

We went to a football match: Real Potosi - Independiente (Sucre).
At the entrance area there had been like a riot as the police officers tried to hold back the entering people with their batons, and so many tried to enter to see the game!

At the stadium there were about 30,000 people! Totally full.
Game started. Brass bands of both teams played their music - loudly :)

It was funny to see how the audience reacted: the team of Potosi was leading in the beginning and Potosian audience cheered them, but when the team was loosing, their supporters started to react aggressively... Sucreans were wathcing the game silently. It was easy to see, in which part of the stadium sat the Potosians :)

Team of Sucre was superior and won the game 2-0.

6.11. Fri (485) Sucre

As in Bolivia it is obligatory for the tourists to go into a HIV test, also I had to do it. Every tourist staying in the country more than 30 days have to take the test. But that's ok.

7.11. Sat (486) Sucre

This was to be the last day with Lizbeth, as I had planned to search for work in Bolivia. In Sucre the chances to find work are small, as there are not so much of work opportunities for a computer engineer. I had planned to go to Santa Cruz. I wouldn't have liked to go!

8.11. Sun (487) Sucre Santa Cruz

I started the journey at 7 am, as I was told that the road is bad. Tank full of gas... 6 litres of it... What! 60 kms ridden since the last filling. Makes 10 l/100 km... Somebody had drained fuel out of my tank. It had happened twice and at a hostel, in the night. What a shame...

-----
The stolen articles on the tour had been so far:
  • A Citizen Divemaster watch in Turkey. I forgotten it on a table at a cafe of a gas station! It had cost 210 USD.
  • Some tools & clothes were stolen in Mauritania. I guess other tourists did that, maybe a local hawker, at Nouadhibou camping. (I lost worth of 100 USD).
  • A few clothes in Burkina Faso at a catholic mission station F.E.M.E.
  • In South Africa somebody people stole some of my food in several backpackers' hostels.
  • Bathroom bag stolen in Buenos Aires.
  • Gasoline of 10 litres in Bolivia.

    So absolutely nothing dramatic... As tour has last this long time, it is almost inevitable that things get lost. It is impossible to guard the things all the time, and it doesn't make any sense either.
    -----

    After the Huellas de Dinosaurios, (Footprints of Dinosaurs) the asphalt ended. The road to Santa Cruz seemed to be a narrow, bumpy and also a bit dangerous gravel road. But the sceneries and views were beautiful!

    Many times the road was so narrow that it was enough for just one car. And there were many trucks and buses on the way. I did the first 273 kms in nine (9) hours! That makes 30 km/h. Three stream crossings. The deepest of the streams was flowing so rapidly and seemed so deep, I had to cross it first by walk. The bottom was of stones depth was 30 cm. Okay. The trucks went other path, there was 60 cm of water.

    The way to Santa Cruz (495 kms) took 14.5 hours. I went to the first hostel I found in the night. It wasn't difficult to fall asleep.

    (End of Tour Diary book 3)

    9.11. Mon (488) Santa Cruz

    The hostels in Santa Cruz were more expensive than in Sucre. Climate was tropical, humid and hot. A bit uncomfortable. The consulate of Finland was near, just one kilometre from the hostel. I had there some mail from Finland waiting for me.

    The Consulate of Finland was located in the 3rd floor of a bank. In Antofagasta, Chile it was in the same premises with a language school. Unfortunately the consul was on holiday or somewhere, so I couldn't have my mail. Bad luck. The secretaries didn't know where the consul was, when he would return and they didn't have access to the documents, e.g. mails.

    11.11. Wed (490) Santa Cruz

    I arranged more time for my visa, as the first one is for 30 days only. But, at least Finns can have 90 days automatically, for free. There is a contract between Finland and Bolivia.

    Anyway, Santa Cruz seemed to be a disappointment for me (according to work opportunities). The last matter was, when there were no advertisements of work in newspapers. And if there was work, it was low paid. I gave up and decided to return back to Sucre.

    I filled the tank and also the jerrycan full of premium gasoline for return trip.

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