Partimos hacia nuestro próximo destino, Potosí. La ruta estaba bastante buena, con bastantes partes pavimentadas. M no se sentía muy bien asique aprovechó a dormir la mayor parte del viaje y el resto de la tarde en el hotel. El día estaba lluvioso y frío por lo que nos quedamos descansando en el hotel. Al día siguiente, nos fuimos a conocer la ciudad. Potosí fue una de las ciudades más ricas durante la conquista de los españoles y el descubrimiento de sus minas de oro y plata. El casco antiguo de la ciudad está muy bien mantenido, muy colonial, con muchas iglesias, edificios, y conventos que datan de esa época. Visitamos la Casa de la Moneda, muy bien conservada, donde nos mostraron las máquinas que usaban en el 1600 hasta el 1950 para acuñar monedas, como así también platería antigua. Después paseamos por las callecitas angostas, empedradas, de estilo colonial, y pasamos por el Convento de Santa Teresa y diferentes iglesias. Parece que en Bolivia se festeja mucho el carnaval. Los chicos esperan la salida de la escuela para empaparse con bombitas de agua y espuma. T estaba fascinado. Mañana partimos hacia otra ciudad colonial: Sucre.
February 24 and 25th.
We weren’t sure whether we were going to stop in Potosí on the way from Uyuni to Sucre but we decided to take it easy because M was not feeling all that well. We ended up staying two nights to allow time for M to recover and to officially enter our car into Bolivia. We went through immigrations but missed customs after entering from Chile a few days ago and we were told in Uyuni that we could go through customs in Potosí. E and T went to customs on what turned to be an ‘adventure’. We asked for directions at least a dozen times and kept getting different instructions. Policemen usually didn’t know where customs were and after someone mentioned they were on the way to Sucre we kept asking for directions to Sucre. After a couple of loops around the city’s steep, tiny streets we ended up in the right place: an unmarked gate with lots of trucks inside (someone else had said there would be lots of trucks). We opened the gate and drove to down the road to the only building. After explaining the situation to the first officer we saw we learnt that because Potosí was not bordering another country they did not have the system to register the entrance of the car. Our options were to go back to the limit with Chile, a ten-hour drive on tracks now covered in snow or an eight-hour drive South to the border with Argentina. A bit more asking led us through a series of people until we hit the “gerente” (boss) who decided to help us. Apparently we were not the first ones to miss customs when entering from Chile through Hito Cajón and they acknowledged there are no signs pointing to the customs office which is not on the ‘main’ road. Our papers were faxed to the border, our information filled into a customs declaration form (“Declaración Jurada”) stamped with a Feb. 22 date, and then faxed back to us. We don’t have an original and our information is supposed to be entered at some point into the custom’s computer system so we hope we don’t run into trouble later.
Potosí turned out to be a nice place to visit. As most bolivian cities it is built on the mountainside (there are LOTS more mountains than I thought there would be in Bolivia), with narrow streets and low buildings. Soon after we arrived there was a brief downpour and a few minutes later the streets had turned into fast-flowing rivers. About 30 mins later the water was gone and life was back to normal. We toured the “Casa de la Moneda” where coins were made between 1600 and 1950, and visited other interesting buildings. Touring the mines is popular but not appropriate for small kids so we skipped that one. We are getting close to Carnaval which is really big in Bolivia. School kids are chasing each other around throwing foam and water bombs at each other and any passerby (including us).