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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Bolivia - 13 December, 2001

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Bush camp, hot springs outside Potosi S1928.060' W06547.686' 3,415 m
Finish Hotel Jerusalem, Potosi S1935.107' W06545.374' 3,970 m 30 km (by Encounter truck)

Leg 1 Total:

6,375 km

Galapagos:

771 km

Grand Total:

7,146 km

 

Weather: In the morning it was clear, sunny and warm.  In the afternoon it became cloudy and cool.  Cold at night.

 

 

We have an early start this morning.  The Encounter group is going to Sucre, but they will pass through Potosi and drop us off.  We are up at 5 AM and pack up our tent and gear.  We had a great nights sleep - it is more comfortable than the strange hotel beds.  The hot springs is giving off a nice mist in the fresh cold morning.  After breakfast, they pack up the truck and, before we leave, we take a group picture.

 

It is a short ride into Potosi and we hop off with our stuff.  Many thanks to Jeff and the group for the lift to Potosi.  We had lots of fun.  We jumped in a taxi and went to our hotel.  After dropping off our stuff, we head into town to check out the sights.

 

As a way of background, Potosi, the world's highest city, in its heyday, was larger than either London or Shangai.  It was the richest city in Latin America at the end of the 18th century.  What made it so important and rich - simply put, it had a mountain of silver in its backyard.  Silver from Potosi underwrote the economy of Spain for over two centuries.

 

Bolivia01_Potosi1_SanFran_CityView_4118_Web.jpg (101795 bytes)

We first went to the town square with the cathedral and the grand colonial buildings surrounding it.  From there we headed to the Museo and Convent de San Francisco.  After paying an entrance fee, we got a tour of the place.  First we were taken up to the bell tower, from where we got a grand view of the city and Cerro Rico, the mountain from which all the silver came.  Back down in the church, we were given a guided tour.  As the guide only spoke Spanish, it took a while to get through everything in the church.  But it was very interesting.

 

After that, we wandered the streets for a while before stopping for a quick bite of lunch.  The one problem we found with Potosi was finding a place to eat. They all seemed to be closed.  We also could not find a decent bakery.  In the end, we got a whole chicken for lunch that we shared.  After lunch, we went to an internet cafe while we waited for the Casa Real de la Moneda (The Royal Mint museum) to open after lunch.

 

Bolivia01_Potosi1_Mint01_Paintings_4121_Web.jpg (95709 bytes)

We spent the afternoon touring the Royal Mint.  It was a great museum.  There are over 20 rooms open to the public and we saw many of the original items from the seventeen hundreds.  We saw the room where slaves would pound the silver and gold into coins.  There were "footprints" in the hard wooden floor from where the slaves stood over many years pounding out the coins that funded the Spanish monarchy.  

 

Bolivia01_Potosi1_Mint06_Chest_4126_Web.jpg (89638 bytes)

We also saw the huge wooden rolling mills (12 rollers in three machines powered by mules from the floor below) that turned the silver and gold ingots into plates the thickness of coins.  They had some of the chests that the coins were transported in to Spain.  One chest had 12 locks that were operated by one key.  The key had to be turned in a special way to open the locks - it was amazing.  By the way, the internal locking mechanism was silver plated!

 

Bolivia01_Potosi1_Mint08_Altar_4128_Web.jpg (101265 bytes)

There were lots of paintings and pieces from the churches (including a huge gold-plated altar) that were brought here for safe keeping.  There were also some archeological pieces and mummies of children that had been dug up.  They were well preserved in the cold, dry air at this altitude.  They also had a huge mineral collection.  The ironic thing about the mint is that it as this mint that produced so many gold and silver coins for Spain (at no cost to Spain), whereas today Bolivia has to pay to have its coins minted in Spain.

 

It is hard to describe all that we saw in the museum - it was so extensive.  Afterwards we returned to the hotel to wash up and take it easy while we waited for our group to arrive so that we could collect our bags from the truck.  After we sorted out our stuff, we headed out for dinner.  We went to the San Marcos restaurant, which is situated in an old mineral processing building.  They have a number of the machines and ore cars scattered throughout the restaurant.

 

While we were the only customers (it is the low season), we had a great meal.  We had Alpaca meat for dinner - it was actually quite good.  By the time we finished and walked outside, it had gotten cold.  We bundled up in our clothes and made our way back to the hotel as quickly as possible.

 

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