What do Larry Bird, Patrick Roy, Dan Wheldon, and a mine in Copiapó all have in common? The number 33! Now I didn’t visit the infamous San José Mine, but I did decide that a trip to Chile just wouldn’t be complete without checking out a Chilean mine. The industrial parts were immense. I guess I never realized how much space is needed for the whole copper mining process. Spread out over hectares of land, a really old train transfers the ore from the mines to the storehouses to the smelter to town.
Afterwards I made my way to Sewell a ghost town high up in the mountains. Why is it a ghost town now you ask? All of the inhabitants were dying of black lung and from the air which was saturated with arsenic. Other than that… what a place to live! The town was originally built by a North American in 1904 who brought all of his building supplies from the States and set up the town as a self-standing community. The miners that lived there received their salary and paid no rent or board. For many country folk this was a huge change and they were happy to be living in luxury. As an outsider I really felt like I had walked into an old-Western set. It was eerie, but fascinating.
Today Sewell is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite all of the tremendous earthquakes and shakes, the town still stands. Since all of the buildings were constructed of wood, they withstood the stress. The nicest houses however couldn’t defend themselves from the hands that tore them down. When everyone left the town they took 3/4 of the town with them. That means all that’s left is only a smidgen of what it used to look like. At any rate it is still a gorgeous town situated high up in the mountains.