The Americas travel blog

We leave Uyuni today to travel to Potosi. We walk to the bus station and catch the 9 am public bus. We are now reducing altitude although it's still hilly but the landscape has changed. There are now lots of llamas and alapacas and very small villages. There is also more vegetation here than we have seen too. The bus is meant to take 3 hours but takes 4 hours. No toilet on board so it's a psychological thing to not feel like we need one. We arrive in Potosi at 1 pm and catch 2 taxis to our Hotel. Potosi is one of the world's highest cities, at an elevation of 4,050 metres. Silver was discovered in Potosí in 1545, prompting the founding of the town the following year. Within 30 years its population exceeded 150,000, making it the largest city in the New World. Within 100 years of its founding it approached 200,000 inhabitants, more than London or Paris at the same time.

After checking in we go to lunch. The specialty of the restaurant is their vegetable soup which has a volcanic rock in it and comes to the table bubbling, like the mud we saw at Sol de Mañana. Delicious!!

After lunch is a walking tour of Potosi which has narrow streets and some beautiful architecture. The city has a lovely feel to it. There are colourful colonial buildings painted purple, orange, blue and white. A kaleidoscope of colour and very pretty. At 4.30 we have a tour of the Mint. It was built between 1753 and 1773 to control the minting of colonial coins. Legend has it that when the king of Spain saw the bill for its construction, he exclaimed ‘that building must be made of silver’. There are several galleries of paintings and the strikingly powerful 'La Virgen Cerro', depicting the Virgin Mary as the mountain which overlooks Potosi, is the most famous. More rooms show coins and equipment for minting coins, from a manual hammer and press, through to cogs and wheels that were driven by donkeys and finally steam machinery, till the mint ceased operation in 1933. Above the door at the main entrance of the Mint is the grinning mask of Bacchus, which is said to be ironically directed at the Spanish. The Mint building itself is beautifully preserved and the tour lasted 2 hours and was very interesting.

Tonight Eilis, Phil and I go to 4050 Restaurant named after the altitude of Potosi. The meal is good. Phil orders steak which comes a bit rare so he asks for it to be cooked more. He waits for ages and a new steak appears but this one is rare too. He gives up and eats some of my meal. We put that experience down to 'lost in translation'.

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