Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breathless in Potosi & Lounging in Sucre

Potosi is the world´s highest city at a breath-taking 4060 m. After being founded in 1545, Potosi quickly grew and became world-known for having the most lucrative silver mines. By the end of the 18th century it had grown to be the larges and wealthiest city in Latin America. Unfortunately, much of the history of the mine should not be celebrated as millions of indigenous people and African slaves were conscripted to work in the less the ideal mines - the mines have actually cost millions of lives. The mines in Potosi are the longest running and largest silver mines in the world. The thing most travelers do in Potosi is go for a tour of the still-active mines, which reportedly still employ child labour in less than ideal conditions - we opted not to go for a tour. Instead we slowly navigated the hills of the city and took it easy at such high elevation, just taking it all in.

From Potosi we caught a ride in a shared-taxi 3 hours North East to Sucre. It was a winding road down but a good ride in Bolivian standards as the road was almost entirely paved! Amazing scenery and greenery greeted us on the ride to lower elevations.

Amazing historic buildings and street markets teeming with whatever you might need, Sucre is the judicial capital of Bolivia and was declared a Unesco Cultural Heritage site in 1991. We frequented the market and especially loved all the fresh fruit and smoothies that we available. Sucre is at 2750metres and is surrounded by beautiful green valleys and has a better climate for fruit productions, yum!

We took the opportunity to lounge a bit it Sucre to catch up on some sleep and give our aching bellies some attention. The city lends itself well to R&R with sunny warm days and cool nights and plenty of plazas to sit in and read or people watch.

Next stop: Santa Cruz and the cloud rainforest of Samaipata for some hiking and sight-seeing.

Bolivia Fun Fact:
There are lots of alpaca and llamas in Bolivia. This means lots of toques, mitts, scarves, socks, and sweaters for sale. Instead of spreading out, we often find these sorts of shops all huddled together on one street. We find similar streets lined with silver vendors (necklaces, rings, earings, etc), or fruit vendors, or toiletries stalls, or snack shops. While we appreciate the competition, the fact that they are all selling the same things leaves us does anyone stand out and make money? How do we choose who to buy from?

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