November 14, 2005
Henry and I bought our bus tickets to Potosi today. The ride started out insignificantly enough, but about an hour into the trip, we suddenly heard a high-pitched noise coming from the front of the bus. I thought one of the belts in the engine was loose, but I should have known better. We had a flat tire. Just like yesterday, the driver put on the spare, but this time he didn't even let us leave the bus. The entire operation was completed in less than ten minutes. It was obvious that he had changed many tires before.
We drove for another hour and had to stop again. I could hardly believe it, but we had another flat! This time, we stopped in a small town where the driver enlisted the help of a mechanic. They patched up the front tire, moved it to the back, and put the spare in front. My new word for a flat tire is a "Bolivia," of which I've experienced three in two days. The Bolivias doubled the length of the ride from 2.5 hours to 5 hours.
As I was walking around looking for a hotel, I saw a familiar face go by on a bus. Lloyd, who I had met in La Paz a week ago, was in town and had just finished his tour of the mines. He had taken a different route through the country, and we happened to cross paths again at that moment. He told me how horrible the conditions in the mine were, which honestly just made me want to go more.
I found a great hostel to stay at. It has huge, comfortable beds, breakfast included, and best of all, real showers. Most hotels here have electric showers, which probably are as dangerous as they sound. With electric showers, the water gets heated via electricity just before it hits your naked body. I have heard countless stories of people being shocked by them. Anyway, this place has safe hot water. It's a splurge for me at $5 per night, but I think the amenities provided make it worthwhile.
Henry, Lloyd, and I wanted to get lunch, so we walked through the city's market, where we found people cooking food. We each got a plate of different stuff to cure our hunger. Later, I used the Internet for a few hours, but I could barely do anything because it was so slow. I think I'll have a difficult time keeping my site up-to-date as long as I'm in Bolivia.
Tomorrow morning, I will go on a tour of the mines. I think I know what to expect: small passageways, filthy air, and generally horrible working conditions. Still, I want to see for myself just how bad it really is. After all, I didn't go on this trip just to see the good stuff. I want to experience it all.