Philipp had told us last night that we were now entering the rainy season, well he was right as we wake to the sound of pouring rain against our hotel window.
Thankfully one of the attractions of Potosi is a rather splendid museum that is perfectly suited to wet days, ‘Casa de la Moneda de Bolivia’ or the Mint of Potosi.
The museum is only now open via a compulsory guided tour which makes the experience. Very few of the exhibits are in English, and in fact we learn far more about the history than could be obtained from just reading the cards anyway.
The silver that the Spanish took from the mountain was made into coins and silver bars for transportation back to Spain in this building that was the mint of Potosi.
Apparently you could build a bridge from Potosi to Spain with all the silver the Spanish ‘stole’, and due to the conditions in the mine and the mint (mercury was used in the process that had significant impacts on the workers) you could build a bridge back with the bones of the indigenous people that died there (thought to be between 4 and 8 million!).
Given the history of currency in Bolivia it is a little surprising, sad and ironic that their own coins are now imported from other countries….including Spain!
As well as the wonderful history of the mine and the mint, the museum also has a few other historical bits and pieces, including a War Room containing historic weapons, uniforms and paintings. Here you can see artifacts from Bolivia’s wars against Chile, wars against Uruguay, The War of the Pacific. Or as our guide described it with a wry smile… “all the wars Bolivia lost”
A quick lunch of llama burger (me)and soup (Niki) washed down with mate (both of us – helps with the altitude) we get a relatively long taxi ride (still costing less than £1) to the new bus station. We hadn’t realised how large Potosi was outside its UNESCO Heritage Status historic centre, though it is very different and more reminiscent of Uyuni.
The new bus station was constructed in 2009 and from the outside looks like a Big Top circus tent. From the inside it resembles the Chellow Heights precips (one for our colleagues back at Yorkshire Water). The large open expanse provides an eery acoustic for the ‘Bolivian Banshee Ladies’ that shriek the names of destinations in an attempt to attract trade to one of the 20+ bus companies operating there. When one starts, the rest quickly join in creating a creepy sort of round.
We grab a drink while we wait and Niki is fascinated by the terrible acting on Bolivian soap opera that is running on the TV above the counter. It’s almost silent movie style in the over acting stakes.
Whilst the journey to Sucre is relatively short (4 hours or so), “music” that wouldn’t be allowed under the Geneva convention as a torture device is piped through our bus during our journey. When we thought it couldn’t get any worse, for the last 40 minutes of the journey one song gets stuck on repeat. We exit the bis with ears bleeding by the end…
Similar to the sprawl of Potosi, beyond the historic centre the same is to be said of Sucre as the approach to main city is not the pretty colonial place I remember from a decade ago (or that is described in the guidebook).
A short 10Bs taxi and we are in the narrow white washed streets that helped gain Sucre UNESCO heritage status (at the same time as Potosi) and arrive at our lovely hotel for the next 4 nights. The number 1 accomodation in the city according to Trip Advisor, it is a 3 storey colonial building (plus roof terrace) set around a lovely courtyard. Good WiFi provides a chance to FaceTime family and then we take advantage of the fact we have a restaurant in the hotel.