Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 8: Hasta luego, Cerro Rico!

This morning, we were actually able to sleep in a bit.  Although, at the Hacienda, there isn’t much sleeping in going on.  Birds are chirping, dairy trucks are delivering and picking up from the dairy farm, donkeys are…doing whatever it is that donkeys do at 7 o’clock in the morning.  However, it was a lovely, relaxing morning at the Hacienda.

After breakfast, Arturo took us out on a little adventure.  We stopped along some of the land his family used to own as a part of the Hacienda and saw a very old church, El Templo de Santa Lucia.  We took some pictures outside the fence before following Arturo’s lead and climbing the fence to get a better look.  It was incredibly gorgeous, with mestizo carvings in the front of the church, two tall bell towers, and a cobblestone patio.

Following our trespassing at the church we went out to find a silver mill along the Tarapaya River.  After a bit of searching, we did in fact come across it – hidden on the back of what looked like an old adobe house from the road.  This mill was where they would bring the ore and crush it.  The ceiling was only a little over five feet tall in the highest place, with what looked like maybe a chimney in the middle, and a small carved out area that may or may not have been used to channel water into the mill.  It was pretty cool to stand in the middle of something over 400 years old.

After the mill along the Tarapaya river, we went to another place where they smelted lime for use in concrete to build aqueducts and other structures during the colonial days.  For some stupid reason, people have installed kiosks to sell drinks and snacks directly in front of the smelters.  So we climbed up a small hill and looked down into the smelters from above.  It sure was a far drop, maybe 25 or 30 feet, and they were only partial structures that remained.  I can’t imagine how big they would have been during their prime.  This was also where we saw the natural hot springs.  The water was ridiculously hot, coming from a natural spring up in the mountains.  Most of the water was collected for use in the area (pools, thermal baths, etc.) but some of it flowed into the Pilcomayo River.

We returned to Hacienda Cayara to pack up the car, say our goodbyes to Arturo, Coca, Renee, and Whiskey, and sign the guestbook (which apparently is necessary).  We were extremely late to lunch with our team, but we finally made it to Phishqa Warmis.  Lunch was…okay…but the company was great.  We spent about an hour and a half eating and talking with our new colleagues before saying our “hasta luegos” and “mucho gustos.”

Then we went to La Casa de la Moneda, where the silver coins were stamped.  Wow.  What an amazing experience.  There is far too much to describe, as you will see in the pictures on Facebook, but I will highlight a few things.  One was the press used to flatten the silver into a uniform thickness.  It consisted of four sets of wheels, which consisted of three separate wheels each.  Man power was used on the same floor as these machines, but below there were places for mules to walk in circles, providing the rotation necessary above.  I know that’s a crappy description, but it’s really not an easy set up to describe.

Another incredible part of the tour was where the silver-mercury amalgam was heated one final time before the silver was poured into bars.  Basically, two people blew air into a fire, while another stoked the fire and mercury volatilized out of the amalgam.  The silver was melted in a giant vessel with a spout and then poured into the molds for silver bars.  Perhaps the most unbelievable part was seeing the black walls and ceilings from where the vapor would rise up and out of a hole in the ceiling.  That room would have been a dream to sample in!

Once we finished up our tour at La Casa de la Moneda, we headed back to Sucre.  We drank some beers and fed the stray dogs along the way, and arrived in one piece.  There was a mix up with my room, so for tonight, I’m in a room right next to the front desk.  It’s pretty noisy down here so I’m not sure how much sleep I’m actually going to get despite how exhausted I am.  Tomorrow I get to return to my previous room, which I welcome very much.

Tomorrow we’re going to be tying up some loose ends for the project.  I also asked Nick, if he had time, to go shopping with me to get some souvenirs.  So far, the only thing I’ve bought for myself is a postcard, and I can’t honestly leave Bolivia with just a postcard.  I would really like an authentic, wool poncho, so hopefully we find one that doesn’t break the bank.

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