Suffering from the altitude (Potosi, 4000 meters)

The beautiful center of Potosi

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Before arriving in Potosí we had a few more kilometers of mountains road ahead of us. We left the really nice wild camp, and made it through the sand and over the ditch.

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We were back on the road, and I decided that it was a good… no great idea to get some exercise on the bicycle. Bicycling in 3500 meters on mountain road is hard, except when it is downhill wlEmoticon-rollingonthefloorlaughing Suffering from the altitude (Potosi, 4000 meters).

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Passing by the traditional fields and houses, which are using rocks to keep the corrugated metal roof in place

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Reaching Potosí in 4000 meters. Potosí was founded in 1545 as a mining town, it soon produced fabulous wealth, and the population eventually exceeded 200,000 people. Today 141,000 live in Potosí. The rich mountain, Cerro Rico, produced an estimated 60% of all silver mined in the world during the second half of the 16th century. Native-American laborers were conscripted and forced to work in Potosí’s silver mines through the traditional Incan mita system of contributed labor. Many of them died due to the harsh conditions of the mine life and natural gases. At such a high altitude, pneumonia was always a concern, and mercury poisoning took the lives of many involved in the refining process. From around 1600, the death rate skyrocketed among the local Indian communities. To compensate for the diminishing indigenous labor force, the colonists made a request in 1608 to the Crown in Madrid to begin allowing the importation of 1,500 to 2,000 African slaves per year. An estimated total of 30,000 African slaves were taken to Potosí during the colonial era. Like the native laborers, they too died in large numbers. During colonial times an estimated eight million African and Amerindian slaves died in the process of the silver extraction (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potos%C3%AD).

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African slaves were also forced to work in the Casa de la Moneda (mint) as acémilas humanas (human mules). Since mules would die after a couple of months pushing the mills, the colonists replaced the four mules with twenty African slaves.
We decided to go on a local mine tours, and booked a tour for the next day with Potochil Tours, but more about the mine tour in the next post. So getting to 4000 meters in elevation was a challenge for us, and we did experience symptoms of acute mountain sickness, which are: hyperventilation, increase in heart rate, fluid loss (the air is really dry), headache and we were tired. For most people it last 24 hours, but it can last up to 72 hours (Source: http://www.altitudeclinic.com/Copenhagen/Dissertation10b.pdf).

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From Potosí our plan was to visit Sucre. On the way out of Potosí Esben bought a snack – some kind of sweet chips

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I bought gasoline for Lance instead. BUT why am I not buying gasoline at a gas station? Here in Bolivia there are two different prices for gasoline, one for locals, which is 3.74 BOB (0.54 USD or 3.5 DKK) per liter, and one for tourist 7.78 BOB (1.13 USD or 7.25DKK). We can afford to pay the tourist price, but our biggest problem is, that no gas stations take credit cards, this means that we have to pay in cash. Let’s say we need to fill up 50 liters (50*7.78 BOB = 389 BOB), this we cost us 389 BOB in cash, and in a lot of ATM’s it is only possible to withdrawal 500 BOB per credit card, sometimes 1000 BOB. Also we don’t like carrying too much cash around. Instead it is easier to buy gas the plastic jugs in the side of the road. Typically we pay 5-6 BOB per liter, and the locals earn a little bit of money, and we don’t have to find an ATM all the time.

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Found a nice place to camp for the night on www.ioverlander.com and in the morning the owner (Juan Fernandez) of the land showed up, and invited us for a walk, to see some of the old wall paintings.

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The wall paintings dates back 8000 years

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Paintings of llamas

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Meet Juan Fernandez

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We continued the small loop, and on the way back we walked through a field, where Juan is growing peaches. No peaches at this time of year, but we picked some herbs. Parsley, which I was gonna use for a traditional Danish gravy, we call it “Persillesovs” (a white gravy with loads of parsley).

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Dinner later the same day after arriving in Sucre – don’t worry, we have not forgotten about the mine tour. Check out the next post.

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