Potosi was an intriguing sounding place. It is advertised as the highest city in the world at 4090m (although El Alto next to La Paz is fighting for this title). However, it is possiblly more famous for it’s plata or silver. The city was built up around the silver mines in the mid 16th century and by 1672 it was said to be the largest and wealthiest cities in the world. It still has silver mines now and for a small fee you can enter the mine and observe the horrific conditions that people continue to work in.
However, none of this is what ultimately persuaded us to get off the bus at Potosi rather than continuing straight on to the lovely Sucre. Instead, it was the unique and charming farm just 40 minutes outside Potosi called the Hacienda de Cayara, which tempted us to stay. The farm is set in absolutely picturesque countryside, far from the dusty and chaotic city of Potosi. On this type of trip it is very easy to just move from city to city so it was the perfect country escape and an ideal place to relax for two days.
If you’re at all interested in history then the Hacienda is a magical place to stay. The current owners are of french ancestory and have owned the farm for 3 generations. Slowly they have been uncovering rooms and boxes full of treasures from the original Spanish owners (the Spanish Marquis and Marquesa from as early as the 16th century) and from Bolivia’s more recent history, particularly at the time it gained its indepedence. Slowly they are restoring and displaying everything they find and turning their home into, what they like to call, a ‘living museum’. Chris and I got to sit in the Marquesa’s original room, explore her handmade jewelry box, go inside the recently renovated chapel, play with General Sucre’s saddle (and even sit on his bed – still with the original mattress). They have also has uncovered an enviable collection of old books, including a full set of Voltaire’s work. The owner, Arturo, and his son, Christian, took hours to walk us through everything and passionately explain every detail.
The visit to the Hacienda is made even more special by Nancy, the on site cook who prepares delicious Bolivian soups for lunch and then three course meals in the evening. Also, the farm has its own diary which make delicious ice-cream you can buy on site (1 Boliviano each – that’s less than 10 pence).
I nearly forgot to mention that there is a power station near the farm – in true Bolivian style you can explore it to your hearts content (ignoring any ‘danger of death’ signs). Of course we visited it making this the 3rd (yes 3rd!) power station we have visited this year!