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|Potosi • Bolivia 4wd Expedition
|JULY 18, 2006 – TUESDAY
SUCRE TO POTOSI
|We head SW back to Potosi on Hwy 5 for the 180k, but at a much slower speed than we did on Sunday afternoon. A taxi is hired to guide us out of town to the main road. This seems to work well (especially for the cost of $3.) We are on asphalt. The average rate of travel for the group seems to be about 40 mph, which is fine with us, as we have been pushing the envelope. It is nice to actually be able to focus the camera on the little village buildings, llama, people, etc., as we drive by, instead of pointing the camera in the general direction and hoping that you caught it. I suppressed the urge to visit the prison on the edge of town. One Bolivia prison is enough. They are certain it can be arranged for me to visit. I pass.We stop to see the medieval castle drawbridge looking thing at a river crossing that we saw yesterday. It is on the old road, so we have a good view from the new road. There is a woman herding goats also under the bridge. We have no idea why such a huge thing, but it is probably 4 or 5 stories tall. Anyone have any ideas?|
|Arrive in Potosi about 4:30 pm. After checking out 2 places to park 4 RV’s, a motorcycle police escorts us to a main street (wide) and tells us we can park along the street beside the old Railroad station. Not optimum, so more investigation is done. We draw the crowd of curious on lookers. While this is going on, I meet a precious little girl (5 or 6 years old) that kept calling “hola, hola” from her grandparents storefront. Then she got her little puppy and held him up for me to see. I could not resist. I went over and talked with her and grandparents. Then decided I must have a pix. Her grandparents asked me to wait, then they came back with an American style ballcap to put on her for the pix.I actually wanted to see her beautiful little round face, oh well.A suitable estacionamiento (parking place) is found. It is just a gated parking area where people park cars, trucks, busses, anything for a fee and the security of a locked gate at night. We are charged 20 Bolivianos ($2.40 US) to park per night, and are happy to pay it. Not much (any) esthetics, but presumably safer than on the street. Address: 449 LitoralWe took longer than usual breaks in driving today because Stephen had some kind of reaction during the night and is not feeling well. Judy thinks it many have been from some long-life milk (another reason to not drink the stuff).
NEW LICENSE PLATES
Michael and I head off to find a color photocopy store to “make” us new license plates. The taxi takes us to a great shop and we “make” 4 license plates with really good laminated plastic. We also make color copies of passports, licenses, and vehicle title. (You can’t color copy these at home-illegal.) Now at checkpoints we will use these copies instead of presenting any originals unless we are forced to. We are told that most checkpoints do not even know what they are looking at, as long as it has numbers, they are fine with the copies. We now have 2 plastic coated-paper “license plates” installed with the bolts AND CLEAR SILICONE CAULK. Those suckers are not coming off, even when we want them to. We opted to remove the 1 original plate that was left . . . just in case. Then at least we have 1 plate when we return to the U.S.Dinner is at a wonderful restaurant, El Fogon. It is cold at night, and the restaurant is warm, bright gold walls, and 2 gas log fireplaces. We have a very elegantly served steak (beef, not llama!) and a whole pitcher of the best lemonada (limeade).
JULY 19, 2006 – WEDNESDAY
Potosi – World Heritage Site Elevation: 13,454 ft. Population: 140,000
It is very cool this morning, somewhere around freezing. None of our diesel appliances work: heater, hot water heater, engine heater, or stove. Darn, guess we will have to eat out!
There are several things on our agenda: laundry facility, city tour, mine tour, weaving shops, hot springs, mint tour, city views from several miradors (towers). There are 34 churches and cathedrals in Potosi, so I am sure we will see some of them.
Michael has an appointment, as such, with a guy that has a welding shop adjoining the estacionamiento to make some bars to cover the license plate areas to prevent further theft. While he waits, he heads off to search out something to make some headlight protectors out of. We need some rock covers, as everyone else has them and says they are a must. It didn’t take him long, but what a sight — Michael carrying a white metal BIRDCAGE! Yes, I said BIRDCAGE. It seemed that the best “grill-grid” material they could find was this cage. What a great photo! There were quite a few jokes, too.
First importance is find a laundry, which we did and it was right next to a mine tour company. We book tours for 9am tomorrow. Then we head off on a self-made city tour. We see a few old building, but mostly end up on windy cobblestone paths between houses, many with dead ends. Houses are single story buildings with multiple doors. Each door is a separate family home. Construction is of fired brick or adobe brick, some stone, and clay tiles roofs. The fancier buildings on the main street are colonial with overhanging wood balconies. Our city tour is not very profitable, so we disband. Judy and I go to search out . . . more textile shops. We are looking for a lanyard for Mike’s keys and whatever other great things we can see. (I bought one in Sucre because I got tired of digging for keys and felt more safety wearing the 3 main keys on my neck. We have a total of 7 keys plus the alarm fob, and I just can’t carry it all! We are still working out the “systems”.
Our dinner was so great last night that we spare no expense and go El Fogon, again. We splurge on a $2 full spread lunch. I love eating out here!
As Mike’s luck would have it so far on this trip . . . he mentions something about keys at lunch, reaches for them, and then his face turns white. I knew from the look they were gone! He believes that they fell out of his pocket in the taxi. He is just sick. It was not his entire set, but the main 5 or 6 keys and the alarm fob. We hope that the taxi driver finds them soon and remembers that he picked up 2 gringos outside the parking area and tries to return them for a reward.
I remember that the Police station (yes, really the police, not the prison!), is just around the corner. We try to explain our dilemma in a mix of English, Spanish, and Charades. Detective Juan Carlo doesn’t seem too interested in getting them back until Michael comes up with the wonderful idea of respenda, REWARD. He offers a 500 Bolivianos ($60ish US – but about 1-1/2 weeks wages) reward for their return. Juan Carlo is now very interested and draws a pix of a taxi, asking us to identify any unique markings. Michael and Stephen can’t even agree on the color, let alone any numbers, if there were any. Michael concedes that it was probably gray, not white (that narrows it down to probably 30% of the taxis), and it was a nuevo, newer car. We “file a report” by writing our name under the drawn picture of the taxi and leave a phone number and our parking address.
With not too great of hopes, it’s off to the mint. The rest of the story . . . later.
CASA DE MONEDA
The Casa de la Moneda, MINT tour is next on our agenda at 2:30. In 1545 the Spanish opened the first large mine, and it is still producing silver. The mountain Cerro Rico is the mining mountain. By 1630 Potosi is the largest town in the Americas, even larger than London. In 1672 the mint is built to produce coins for Europe and S.America. The mint building is massive 200 rooms baroque architecture structure. It has courtyards, carved stone, 3 foot thick walls of a mix of brick and stone, cedar wood timber beams and ceilings, red tile domed roofs. Just the structure was amazing enough.
The exhibit shows some of the first Potosi coins that were hammered out from weighted chunks of silver. Because of their irregular shape, it was easy for people to lop off a hunk and lessen the monetary value of the coin without someone knowing (the first counterfeiters??). The coins were then pressed perfectly round, then had the lines on the edges so they could not as easily be modified. The pressing equipment was 3 sets of these huge complex of wooden cog gears with a driveshaft through the floor, each powered by 4 mules. Incredible. Michael and Stephen had all of the workings figured out, I think. I just took pictures of the coolest parts. Then there were exhibits of the coins produced up to the 1970’s. The weird thing is that for 400 years Potosi produced coins for Europe. Now the Bolivia coins are produced in Europe (the 2-tone is minted in Canada).
Probably the most exciting thing for me was to learn that the silver coins and bars on the Atocha shipwreck off of Florida, found by Mel Fischer, WAS POTOSI SILVER!! I am so excited! I bought an Atocha silver coin pendant from the Mel Fischer museum. I HAVE SOME POTOSI SILVER!!
NOTE: “Worth a Potosi” was a popular saying in the Spanish-speaking world. It meant something was worth a fortune.
At the end of the 3 hour tour, Stephen gets a text message that the police are at the car park wanting to talk to Michael about keys. Off he goes. Juan Carlo is there, in plain clothes this time, trying to get more details, but Michael has told him everything he knows. He wants 50 Bolivianos under the pretense that he is going to ride around in taxis, checking for the keys. It is given. If it finds the keys, it is worth it. (We cannot get Mercedes keys for the Unimog, but at least we were able to get Jay’s keys to order some special banks and get duplicates – I have 1 complete set with me, and it looks like we may need it.)
Judy and I continue “Textiling”. I happen upon a piece on the wall of a very dark and dismal looking shop that is just spectacular, with sage greens, purple, and ocre yellow. It is offered at 200 bs ($24), and I quickly agree. It is a bit smaller than what Judy bought in Sucre, but she also paid almost 700 bs (but it was worth it). We find an artisan co-op shop with lots of great stuff! It is brightly lit, too, which is a biggie! In most shops we have to take pieces to the outside light many times to decipher between red, burgundy, rust, or brown.
7pm – Meet the other girls at the laundry for pickup and taxi to dinner. I catch heck for my 11 kilos of laundry, (which only cost 88 bs to clean). They have been out for 10 days also and the most anyone had was 4 kilos. I carry my 3 bags to dinner at a kind of pub place. It felt English to them, so it was beautiful. Michael and I have meat fondue for 70 bs, together! The same thing at the Melting Pot would be $60 US, not $7. Very, very nice dinner, even with our laundry. They threaten to make me take my own taxi, so it can hold all of the laundry. This is the first time I have taken laundry to dinner. Hopefully, it will be the last.