Potosi and Kolob.

We are parked in Potosi at a truck and bus park at 449 Ave. Literal (S19.579147 W65.755850). After finding that our two recommended parking places (both hostels) were unable to take vehicles of our size, we were escorted by the tourist police to a wide street (Ave. Sevilla) in front of the former railway station and told we could park there overnight.

However, because we intended to stay in Potosi for three nights, we continued looking for somewhere better. With the help of a taxi driver, Mick and Mo found this place. (Mick had to move a couple of trucks so we could park.) Now it may not look like your ideal parking place but it is pretty good. Not only does it have a gate 3.8 metres high, it has security, water, a toilet and only cost $3USA per van per night. (The place is run by Isabel Serrano de Fernandez, and she now welcomes overlanders. Recommended.)

And a bonus you don't get at Caravan Club sites is an on-site welding shop that has, for less than $15USA, made a new rear chassis member for Mel that should survive being scraped along the ground.

The observant will have noticed that while Mel is not visible in the photo above (she is behind K-Nine) there is a splendid Unimog 500 on the right. This vehicle (Kolob) belongs to Mike and René, the Silkroute Club's first (and only?) US members.

Mike and René have been following the progress of PanAm 2006 as they completed the building and testing of Kolob. They originally would have liked to join us in Ecuador, but in the end had to ship Kolob from the Miami to Lima. After nearly a week of frustration getting Kolob out of the clutches of Peruvian customs and an heroic five days of driving thru Peru, Chile and Bolivia, they finally caught up with us in Sucre.


In Sucre we parked at Hostel Austria on Ave. Ostria Gutierrez No 506 (S19.038673 W65.246515). The hostel has a large parking area with no height restrictions.

You are required to take a room (less than $10USA per night, and you would not wish to sleep in it) and there is security, water and, if your cable is long enough to reach your room; electricity.

A taxi to the town centre is about $1USA.

Sucre is a relaxing tourist town with lots of good restaurants, shops, and museums. The most impressive of which (so I am reliably informed) is the ASUR Textile Museum. This has been instrumental in reviving several styles of Bolivian weaving that had all but died out. Three weavers from different regions were on hand demonstrating the extremely fine techniques of Bolivian hand weaving.

Naturally, examples are on sale in the museum shop in the $50 to $150USA range.

After two nights in Sucre we moved on to Potosi, giving Mike and René a chance to see how slowly the rest of us drive. (We normally do less than 200km per day. In their dash to catch us, Kolob had been doing four times this!)

Potosi also has some fine restaurants and churches, but what put Potosi on the map was silver; a whole mountain of it. Gold, or failing that silver, was what the Spanish came to America for. When they found silver in Potosi, they used slaves from Africa and near slaves from South America to extract it. For 300 years, most of Spain's silver coins were minted in Potosi.

The two main tourist attractions in Potosi are the Mint and a visit to one of the very primitive mines around the city.

The mint contains machines used from the 1700's up until the 1950's. One of the most impressive is a series of three mule-driven strip mills used to flatten silver ingots from 15mm to 1mm. The left hand picture shows four mills surrounding a central shaft driven by four mules on the floor beneath. The right hand picture shows one of the mills in detail.

By a fine irony, most of Bolivia's coins are now made in Spain! (The two-toned five Bolivianos coin is minted in Canada.)

Our visit to one of the 200 working mines around Potosi was organised by Silver Tours (ask for Fredi as your guide) who's mini-bus collected us from our parking area at 09:00. There were three stops on the way to the mine. The first stop was unscheduled: the mini-bus was unable to make it up the hill and half of us had to get out and walk for a 100 metres.

The second stop was to get kitted up with helmets, lights and protective clothing. The third stop was to buy gifts for the miners. Suggested gifts include coca leaves, cigarettes, soft drinks, gloves and the ever popular Beginner's Explosive Pack (one stick of dynamite, one two-minute length of fuse and a detonator). Our guide helpfully explained that anybody, including tourists, can buy dynamite in Bolivia.

The conditions in the mine are very primitive with 1500kg ore carts being pushed by two people up to 2km to remove the ore from the mine. Some mines are run by the government with fixed wages of around $8USA per day. Other mines are cooperatives where wages depend on the quantity and quality of ore produced.

Whilst most of the time we walked thru the mine in tunnels you could nearly stand up in, to access the current workings meant climbing six ladders.

Everybody was relived when after a short visit to the devil (who had a tunnel all to himself) we emerged into the daylight.

Mo, Mick, Clive, Stephen, Judy, René and Mike emerging from the mine.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2006-07-20.
This page contains the latitude and longitude (from GPS using WGS84 Datum) of places of interest.