Up Close and Personal in a Silver Mine in Potosí

Today we did a crazy thing: we went into an active Bolivian silver mine and saw the miners in action. Many people argue it is inappropriate and even unethical to visit the mines because the working conditions are so poor. However, mining is such an important part of Bolivia’s history and economy that we thought it was important to see and understand first hand what this work is like.

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Stories from Valle de la Concepción

You can sleep in the bus until 6am

After crossing the border from La Quiaca, Argentina to Villazón, Bolivia we found ourselves waiting for seven hours in the new bus terminal for a 9pm bus. We knew the bus ride was only 5 hours, but we were told we could sleep in the bus until 6am, so we agreed. The route is mountainous and windy, and at one point it seemed almost certain we would drive off the edge as the driver slowed to a crawl and drove around around a sharp curve. At 1:30am, the bus driver started blaring this delightful tune (turn up volume for full effect) as we entered the city and continued to do so until we arrived at the bus station in Tarija 15 minutes later. There he told us he had somewhere else to be and we had to get out.

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WWOOFing Is Working

For the last two weeks we have been volunteering on a winery in Valle de la Concepción just outside of Tarija in exchange for free accommodation and lunch. We were expected to work six hours a day, six days a week with Sundays off. March is harvest season, so our timing was perfect and we got to see most of the wine making process. The winery is an artisanal operation where virtually everything is done manually. It’s hard to convey how manual the whole process is.

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Purmamarca and Tilcara

After our adventures in the desert, we returned to Argentina. We had a couple more days before we had to be in Bolivia, so we decided to take our time going north. Our bus ticket from San Pedro de Atacama would take us all the way back to Salta, but the bus stops in Purmamarca and Jujuy on the way to Salta. We decided to ask the bus driver to let us out at Purmamarca so we could explore some of the smaller towns in the north.

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