We're eating in the terminal in Potosi, waiting for our 17:00 bus to Sucre and the day is ending just a bit roughly. The combination of 4100 meters of altitude, 2 night night each allowing 3 hours of sleep on a bus, and spending various hours below ground breathing in dust and smoke in the mines while drinking 97% alcohol with the minors really packs a punch. I guess that's understandable. I personally, though I don't enjoy the feeling of having your head torn apart from the inside out, do appreciate it. As a firm believer that man has reached a point, believe himself now to be everything-proof, I feel that it does some good to every now and then throw one's self at the mercy of the planet and recognize how helpless we really are.
In our lengthy crawl through the mines today, we saw some pretty spectacular things. First of all, they were mines not meant by any means for touristic purposes; the were fully functional, fully staffed, and come packed with dangerous activities like running from a recently lit stick of dynamite then cupping your ears and opening your mouth so the rush of pressure through the mines would not pop your head.. George and I experienced that one first hand. We crawled through tunnels to hang out and drink with our guide's minor friends, who I suppose were supposed to be working.
We dished out the coca leaves we had brought as gifts in exchange for them welcoming us into their work place, and they instructed us on how to serve the 97% cane sugar alcohol that is common fare for the minors. Mix half and half with juice in a tiny glass, then throw out three splashes - one for the Pachamama, one for the Tio, and one for the minors around you, then drink it down. And the ritual continued time and time again, all in nothing but the light that our headlamps offered.
Sitting and drinking with burly Bolivian minors, some 55 years old wearing 30 years of work in the mine - one as young as 15 and just starting to work - is quite the experience, though George and I did have to fake quite a few laughs at the minors' jokes, and eventually began to throw shots over our shoulders and pretending to wince at the burn. At one point our minor gang got the idea to go show us the place that we work, a destination reached only through several tall muddy ladders and crawls through skinny, near vertical shafts, all whilst our guide announced in broken english that he was 'teepsy.' That was comforting.