30.03.2011 - 31.03.2011 25 °C
We'd heard loads about this famous silver mining town, but had been slightly nervous about visiting the town's main attraction - the silver mines. But the six of us decided to confront the huge mountain and take the tour deep into the mines to visit the miners in their underground workplace. First stop before entering the mountain was to go to the Miner's Market, from where we could buy the miners some gifts. You could buy juice, coca leaves, food...and dynamite!!! This was the only legal place in Bolivia where you could buy it from...in fact even a 10 year old could just rock up and get some! Then it was down into the mines. It was dark, damp and extremely claustrophobic...especially for me as I'm twice the height of the average Bolivian! It was crazy and eye-opening to see men of all ages working there...we were told that most of the guys work there until they are in their 40s, by which point they've inhaled so much dust and poisonous gases that they die. Doesn't make the office in London sound all that bad! All that effort and risk for little reward...on average they'd earn £20 a month. We met one miner who worked about 30m underground, spending 15 hours a day digging away trying to find nuggets of silver, zinc, tin or whatever metals were left to be found. We gave him a stick of dynamite...about 15 minutes later as we were on our way out, we heard a small explosion - I hope he's OK!