The plan after Potosí wasn’t certain. Well, we’d be going to Uyuni, but then there were a lot of options. Whatever we did, we’d be up at elevation for a good while longer and for that reason I decided to have a couple of days off in Potosí. It would be a great help in acclimatising, especially with one of the route options going up to 5000m.
HJ went on the mine tour to Cerro Rico, but I decided to save the money and skip that. I was more interested in making a stove. I wanted to make the most out of the fact that Bolivians like to drink pure alcohol. Every other country I’ve been to labels the super-strong-medical alcohol as definitely not drinkable, that doesn’t happen in Bolivia where people think that 96% alcohol is just fine for drinking. Sure, it’s often mixed with water, but it’s also drunk straight – especially in the mines. There are a variety of DIY backpacking stove designs, but the one I decided on was the 4 in 1 Cat Stove. It was a bit of a hassle to make, not having a drill or any of the other tools involved, but with some asking around we got the base part made. It’d give us something to use to cook pasta, or prepare tea/coffee along the way… as long as it was used inside as I didn’t make the windscreen.
Cerro Rico has an intriguing history, and the Guardian did an article on it back in January that I’d suggest reading. The miners generally work for co-operatives and have to pay for their own everything, including dynamite. The tourists that go on the guided tours are asked to bring gifts along to give them – coca leaf, soft drinks, cigarettes, the 96% alcohol and even dynamite.