Shots from the road: Hitting the smoke

Getting a bit behind, so here’s a wee snippet on what we’ve been up to since leaving Uyuni.

Our first stop was Potosí, the world’s highest city. The local traffic was only too happy to fill in for the lack of oxygen, with hordes of ancient collectivos belching out thick, choking fumes. The poor air quality is proving to be an ever-present feature of urban Bolivia.

Potosí was still a fine spot to relax for a couple of days though, recharging our batteries after a week of pre-dawn starts. My favourite moments were spent above the smoggy streets, gazing across the rooftops and marvelling at how improbably located it is – some 4070 metres above sea level.

Potosí rooftops

The city sprung up in the 1500s, on the back of huge silver deposits in its neighbouring mountain, Cerro Rico. The Conquistadors devoured the lot, yet the mines are still full of unfortunate souls, scratching away at the barren tunnels for a meagre return of minerals.

Up top, the mountain is a colourful, impressive sight, frequently glimpsed from the city’s streets. It’s strange to think how many unhappy lives have been spent (and extinguished) inside it.

Cerro Rico

From Potosí we moved on to Sucre, where the lower altitude laid on our first T-shirt weather for quite some time. It was an exceedingly pleasant sort of place to wander around, if fairly unremarkable in terms of big attractions. The air was as choking here as in Potosí, but the city felt airier; thank the profusion of brilliant white buildings, wide plazas and more in the way of green spaces.

Sucre

After a couple of days wandering in the sunshine we moved on to La Paz, the Bolivian capital, from where I write this missive via a ball-achingly slow Internet connection. So I’ll leave the bloggage there for now. Suffice it to say, La Paz could tell both Potosí and Sucre a thing or two about exhaust fumes…

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