Friday, February 27, 2015
La Rinconada, Peru
For sheer inaccessibility, few locations in South America compare to La Rinconada, a small mining town in the Peruvian Andes. Located nearly 17,000 feet above sea level, La Rinconada is considered the “highest” city in the world, and it is this stunning geography that makes it so desolate. The city is located on a permanently frozen glacier, and can only be reached by truck via treacherous and winding mountain roads. Just reaching the city takes days, and even then altitude sickness, combined with the shantytown’s deplorable condition, means that few people can handle living there for long. Still, the town is said to have as many as 30,000 inhabitants, almost all of whom are involved in the business of mining gold, which is extracted from beneath the ice inside nearby caverns. In addition to its remoteness, La Rinconada has gained a dubious reputation as a destination for poor and desperate workers, many of whom work the mines for free in exchange for the right to keep a small percentage of the gold ore they find.