Roughly 4,000 metres above sea level, lies Potosí, Bolivia’s city in the clouds. One of the highest cities in the world, Potosí is a crudely stunning place that sits beneath Cerro de Potosí, also called Cerro Rico (rich mountain), as it’s home to an abundant source of silver ore.
Here the air is thin, fresh, and the precipitous streets wind through a land of tumultuous history. It’s a place where thousands of indigenous perished in the town’s mine due to exhaustion and exposure to the deadly vapors required to feed Spain its silver during the New World Spanish Empire.
The town has a unique feel that galvanises your senses with its mountain air and old world charm. The Bolivians seem to know this, as they’re constantly trying to get you there. “Potosí, Potosí, Potosí, Potosííííííí”, they would repeat. Weeks after leaving I sang this with travellers, as no other Bolivian town received such enthusiastic advertisment.
On my first night there I watched locals sing and dance in a small bar squashed between houses. Unique, soothing voices, Bolivian rhythms, swirling hips and wide grins delighted travellers from all over the globe. To my further delight I sold a six month supply of Lariam (which I was glad to depart with) upon returning to my hostel.
The following evening a lone traveller took me to his favourite restaurant in town. Evidently he was pleased with his choice and was raving about the food, wine and service. Potosí is a town that appears entirely removed from the world, yet you can find a like-minded soul roaming the streets, reminding you of a little part of home.
The following day I donned a hard hat and dived into the town’s mine with a bunch of affluent Spaniards. Centuries later and it seemed they were still drawn towards Cerro de Potosí, Bolivia’s soaring mound of silver.