Playing golf at 4300 Meters?

January 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

The nowadays small village of Pulacayo, situated 18 kms from Uyuni at an altitude of 4100 (!) Meters, was home to the the biggest Bolivian silver mine of the 20th century. In the 1940’s/50’s, up to 60.000 people lived there, an incredible contrast compared to 2011 as only 500 people still live in Pulacayo.

The cemetery of Pulacyo 

As there where many European, specifically British and German engineers working in the Pulacayo mining industry, these people brought some European sports culture with them to the Bolivian Andes. One example for that: they constructed a golf course! An older man who remembered the golf course described me where it had been, and after walking an hour or so through the hills of Pulacayo I found something that could be the ruins of the golf court. That concrete kind of thing in the next photos, was this the teeing ground? It’s strange to imagine that people would play golf in such an environment – as the photos maybe show, this place can be terribly windy! For sure, this must have been one of the highest golf courses worldwide, at 4300 Meters!

One of several old, abandoned tennis courts.In Germany, we call this SEIFENKISTE (soap box, I guess that makes no sense )The old machine and metall workshop is full with old European machinerie from England and Germany. This one is from Wuppertal.These 2 tanks were produced recently in this very old workshop. They will be used at the lithium pilot plant soon.A locomotive from the German Ruhr Area (Essen).But the highlight of this day was the fact that I meet two Austrian guys, Michael and Thomas. They are producing a documentary film on Pulacayo and when we met they had their last day in the village after 6 weeks of filming. Their translator wasn´t available that day so when they made their last interview with “Franz” (see the next picture) I translated for them.Their film will be finished by the end of the year, we thought about combining my exhibition in Berlin with a screening of their film!One last thing: many many cars and trucks in Bolivia are used, imported ones from Europe, especially Scandinavia. Often there are still stickers of the old companies on the trucks – this one was Swedish I guess. Bolivians love VOLVO trucks.Taxi with japanese (?) lettering.Greetins from Room Nr 14 !


San Christobal and Pulacayo

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

2 days after my small marathon walk I arrived in San Christobal (by bus!). San Christobal used to be a small village on the Altiplano, until hugh amounts of silver, zinc and other minerals where found right under the village and in the nearby mountains. A north american (now japanese) company was licensed to start a gigantic mining project there, which included moving the whole village 20 kilometers away and build it from scratch (one interesting parallel to the west german stone coal mining area near cologne, where villages have been moved as well).

Now the San Christibal open cast mine is one of the biggest mines in the world. I drove to a view point in the mountains that allow a great view on the mine but also on the salar.

Here a first polaroid, but you can hardly see how big it is and it’s also really hard to photograph such a gigantic area.

I wanted to visit San Christobal because of this view but I was also curios: when a whole village gets newly build from scratch, obviously with quite some money from the company, would a really nice and well organized place be the result? No! The village is maybe slightly newer, but it otherwise doesn’t look more modern than other bolivian places (new San Christobal is from the late 90’s.)

The japanese company Sumitomo plans to mine there until appr. 2020, so only 10 years more. 1700 miners work for the company, which is the vast majority of the village’s population. But what happens after 2020? I spoke to one guy how works for the San Christobal foundation (got funded by the mining company), and he said that as soon as the last minerals will be exploited, San Christibal will most likely turn into a ghost town.

Almost 3 weeks ago a did a day trip from Uyuni to an old, almost completely abandonded place called Pulacayo. The first decades of the last century, Pulacayo was one of the most important silver mines of Bolivia. Then, ca. 60 years ago, there was nothing else to mine in Pulacayo and it place quickly turned into a ghost city.

Today, you can still see all the buildings and even the entry of the mine which is wide open:

Another pic of the former mining town:

That’s one of the things I really find interesting: what role played mining for Bolivia in the last centuries, and what potentials are there for the next decades?

But coming back to San Christobal. During my trip I haven’t seen that many solar panels or other ways of using re-newable energies, but here I did.

Solar panels on the roof of the San Christobal foundation.

And I guess it’s thermal panels for hot water (does anyone know better?) on a hotel roof.

So here is some random stuff from daily life.

I like pigs ind my pics.

Afternoon coffee in my room.

Every single food place / restaurant has a TV, usually showing soaps or soccer and always way to loud.

And when the TV is on there is almost no communication left between the people.

Maybe it doesn’t look like that but the chicken was the best I had in Bolivia.

Last but not least some impressions of my “alojamiento” in S.C.

They said they had washed the mattrasses. ???

And from the outside.Top left, my room. Would be a nice view on the plaza, if the windows were not so dirty.

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