Sadly, upon arriving home from the city Saturday evening, with purse, diaper bag, water bottle, camera bag and baby in hand, my beautiful digital SLR camera slipped out of its bag and crashed against the concrete garage floor. A very depressing ERROR message now appears where once it boldly displayed the aperture and shutter speeds for the potentially beautiful picture I was to take.
It takes no more pictures.
I have to take it in for some costly repairs and thus was unable to take any new pictures for WWC by Oddmix. I will, however, add some old ones.
I have done a lot of travelling in my life and have been witness to some absolutely stunning places, along with some incredibly devastating ones. Here, on opposite extremes of the spectrum, are my take on Barbaric and Civilized:
Bolivia is the harshest, yet most amazing country I have visited. A visit to the Potosi mine showcases the brutality and barbaric life that many Bolivians endure. Before heading to the mine, we first go to the market where we must buy gifts for both the men and shrines of the mine.
These ‘gifts’ consist of cocoa leaves (like chew only the leaves give you more of a buzz and numb your mouth), pop, hand rolled cigarettes, 96% alcohol, and dynamite. Not exactly the quaint gifts of fragrant candles and flowers that I’m used to purchasing.
Next we arrive at the mine. While donning questionable hard hats and sketchy gas lanterns, we are given a talk on ‘safety’. “Do not touch any metal pipes. You might burn. Avoid wires. You may die. Try to avoid touching the walls. There are poisonous materials.” Great, sounds like fun I sarcastically think.
We pass by the blood streaked walls of sacrificed llamas and head inside. Immediately upon entereing I am struck with an intense blast of heat. The guide confirms it, 40+ degrees Celcius. “Don’t worry, it will cool down fast as we go lower down.” he says. And it does. It drops to -10 degrees within minutes.
We shimmy and duck and crawl and squeeze through various passageways, crawl spaces and tunnels. Then we meet Tio Gorge- Uncle Gorge. He represents the God of the underworld. He is ugly, nasty and sports a mighty large penis. We must make offerings to him, as do the miners everyday, before continuing. We put a smoke in his mouth, sprinkle cocoa leaves all over him and pour the 96% alcohol first on the ground for Pachamama (Mother Earth), then to El Tio, and finally one of us must also toast. I am the chosen one. I sip at the potent alcohol and try not to offend by coughing it all back out. I swallow and immediately feel as if my insides are burning.
Having appeased El Tio, we now head out to meet some miners. I am struck by their stature. Their frames are small, maybe 5 feet, yet it is obvious they are fiercly strong. They are filthy and hot and exhausted. They welcome the treats we bestow on them, but they only wearily acknowledge our intrusion. Immediately they down the two litre pop bottles we bring them, pop the cocoa leaves into their mouths, take a swig of alcohol and tuck the cigarettes safely into a pocket before resuming their grueling work. Trolleys, which looked like so much fun in Indiana Jones and a mine museum I once visited, now only looks arduous and dangerous as the miners push it from one place to the next as they chip away at walls extracting zinc or hopefully, if the day is a good one, some silver.
I don’t remember how long we were down there for. Maybe two hours. But I will never forget the pure relief I felt upon seeing the light of day again. I was exhausted. And that was two hours. Those miners spend 10 to 15 hours a day in there. Maybe more. They are able to support their families by doing so. But the cost is ultimate. They pay with their lives. It is estimated that a man can last up to 15 years working there and will then die as a result of ingesting one of various poisons inside. After all, 40% of the air inside is gaseous. Only 60% oxygen. And this is at 4300metres (14,000 feet) where oxygen is hard to come by in the first place. That air upon exiting the mine, thin though it may have been, may well be the sweetest I have ever breathed.
To end off the tour, we are treated to an explosion. Not fireworks or even firecrackers. No, our guide detonates dynamite. Dirt and rocks and dust go flying and with that, our tour is over. I am both humbled by the experience and thankful that it is over.
In complete contrast to the above is our trip to Fiji. This trip was all about rest, relaxation and rejuvanation. Soft sands, cold beer, intense waters of green and blue. This was pure blissful comfort.