|Potosi is officially the highest city in the world (4200 metres to be exact). It was founded by the Spanish in 1545 when they discovered the Cerro Rico mine which was used for silver, and they reckon more silver came out of this mine than anywhere else in the world. From the outside the huge hill looks impressive, sparkiling in the sunlight in different bright colours throughout the day. The sight of it dominating behind the city with its many terracotta roofs is quite impressive. It is still an active mine and very dangerous. The miners have a fairly short life expectancy, but nowadays mainly due to respiratoty illnesses rather than collapses. About 8 million people are said to have died down there, mainly slaves under the Spanish. It was described in the mid 16th century as “The mouth of hell”, though I suspect they had never been to Playa del Carmen when there’s a wedding on.
We didn’t have any real problems with the altitude but we definitely noticed when walking around that our lungs seemed to be gasping for a bit more air. Unfortunately Potosi is on a hill so you end up walking up lots of steep gradients to really put you through your high altitude paces. By the second day it was much better.
Bolivia, and this place in particular, is much more rustic then some of the places we’ve been, and you hardly see any tourists. It feels much more like the South America we imagined; locals walking about with colourful clothing and hats, selling all sorts of things on street corners and colourful markets. It is also ridiculously cheap. On our first night we each had a large steak, large chips, large salad, endless bread and dips and a litre of beer (we’re only having one beer at altitude, at least till we’ve built up our tolerance...) and this cost about two pounds each! The second night we found a better more upmarket restaurant and had more or less the same and although the food was nicer we felt ripped off – it cost about £3.50 each!
It was a nice place to hang for a few days but now we’re heading for more salty pastures...