Thursday 28th November 1985
To the tin mine. Catch a bus from the plaza major up the hill. Grumpy reception from the official guide. He waits along time, but still there are only two of us. He is a middle aged miner. His mood changes once we are down the mine, and he gives good tour, concerned that we understand. Actually I understand little, but the mines are an extraordinary experience. This whole mountain has been mined for 500 years, first for the silver and now the tin. This is the state mine, the private mines are too dangerous to visit. They use compressed air titanium headed drills and electric trains. The tine bearing seams run vertically, so 30m vertical columns are dug out with a series of dantesque little wooden platforms and ladders. Wooden staves now blocked with rocks pop out of the tunnels at head height. It is warm and sulfurous. Brilliant blue stalactites drip sulphuric acid that burns our rubber jackets. Six fatalities a year in this mine, and many more injuries, private mines are worse. No pay at present just coca leaves to chew and some bread. Hyponatraemic cramps. Seven levels in this mine, we explore only the top worked out one. The rocky tunnels, with shored up rock falls, the drips and blackness combine to form for me a great mood of human labour and cooperation. They say miners walk to work in the morning in silence, they star to whisper once underground. Get a positive sense of camaraderie amidst all this toil and suffering.
Have a glass of hot thick api in the market to warm me up. Then buy tomorrows ticket for the tren to La Paz, Pullman 10 million pesos in bundles.
Hang around Plaza de Armas getting wet and loosing hope that someone would want to sell me an old poncho for a youthful price. They don't but Jessica bought one that way. The old man fires up his boiler and I have a hot shower and retire under a greta pile of blankets.