August 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Choro Trek 1: La Cumbre to Sandillani

11:42:00 AM
Old man walking down the mountain side with what seemed like an extremely heavy backpack
This weekend me, Dorte and her boyfriend Asger went to check out the Bolivian wildlife through the so-called El Choro-trail. The approximately 53 km long trek starts in La Cumbre, a place which lies 45 minutes by car from La Paz. Our goal was the mountain-side village Coroico, which lies about 3 hours away from La Paz by car. The distance might not seem that long, but you have to cross over rivers, ascend and descend mountains, and not to mention the winding paths will take you zig-zag all the way to Coroico.
Starting out with a break on the top of the mountain.
Going to Coroico takes you through 5 different climate sones, from the cold and naked mountains close to La Cumbre, and a change to low altitude and hot climate when you get closer to Coroico and the Amazon jungle. The big variation definitely made the trek even more amazing.
Ready for the unknown.. Oh yeah.. ;p
We started of fresh at more or less 9 o'clock at Friday, with nothing but ourselves, our backpacks and our local guide Andres (we soon gave him the nickname "Tarzan" because of his toughness..!).
The first thing we did was to climb up one of the mountains close the the lakes in La Cumbre, and from there we had a great view of some inca ruins that Andres told us is more than 500 years old. As we went down towards the ruins we could see condors flying high above us, which actually is quite rare cause they prefer to stay at even higher places. But after we had passed the inca ruins we soon understood why the birds were patrolling the area: a horse cadaver by the side of the road..
We did see a lot of other living animals too though; both wild horses, llamas and sheep were to be found in this area.

Inca ruins that supposedly are more than 500 years old
We had to register before going through Samana Pampa
After some hours of walking we came to the small village Samana Pampa which we just passed through after having registered ourself in a local office on the way.
We did not see many people on our way, and the fog limited our view.

In the village Chucura, which is situated 3600 o.s.l, we had a quick stop to eat lunch. They were celebrating the jubilee of the village, so while eating we could hear sounds of a fiesta in the neighbourhood even though we couldn't see anything.
Our guide walking through the foggy landscape

Asger taking a rest after more or less 4-5 hours of walking
 Our next stop was Challapampa, and this was were we spent the first night. One of the local ladies, who knew our guide, made us dinner, and afterwards we went to bed. I think the clock was around seven or eight in the evening, but all of us were really tired after the long day..
The first toilet we passed on our trip..
First view of Challapampa
The tent is ready for the night..!
Dinner at the house of a local lady living at Challapampa
The second day of our trip we got up before sunrise, an started heading further down the mountainsides. The climate changed quite quickly, and it was a lot more humid than the day before. Most of the day we spent walking through exotic vegetation, we bathed in a river and saw a lot of exotic butterflies. Today we also had to climb the "Cuesta del Diablo" (or the hill of the devil), which is said to be the hardest part of the El Choro track. There was a part after it though, where the guide speeded up so badly that the Cuesta del Diablo seemed like a joke.. Haha..
But also today, we had great views and a lot to see.
The three of us ready for another hard day!
Some interesting plant
Just relaxing by the river
While we were bathing in the river a butterfly used the chance to rest on a pair of  our socks.
Passing the little rest-area called Buena Vista, which means Nice View. And there was certainly a lot of nice view here:)
We passed some gold mines on our way too; here there were 4 men working in the mines. Can't really say they had a lot of security in there though..
With a lot of walking to do you better rest while you can..
But there is also time to enjoy the view!
..Some of the bridges we crossed didn't seem too safe to be honest..
After another long day with 5-6 hours of walking we arrived at a village called Sandillani where there currently wasn't anybody, except for a 80-something year old Japanese man called Hanamura, who lived alone up in the mountains with his dog. Apparently he came to Bolivia from over 60 years ago; I tried to talk to him in Japanese but he didn't really answer a lot. I guess he wasn't used to talking it after all these years. I told him I live in Kyoto, and he started talking about the years Kyoto was the capital, he seemed to have remembered a lot of dates..
A Japanese house in the middle of nowhere - gokk-mokk - Bolivia
The guide cooking some noodles for us for dinner
Our place for the night. According to Dorte there were bats flying around us during the night, probably to catch the mosquitoes that had gathered to get a meal..
Anyway, that night we slept on the ground without the tent, and we could see the fireflies dancing in the forest.
The two first days of our trip was definitely the hardest ones physical since these were the days we walked the most (the third day we had to deal with sore muscles and blisters though..), but we did have some nice experiences the last days too. I'll be back with an update about the last days of our trip tomorrow.!

Related blogposts

Bolivia Death Road!
Sightseeing in Bolivia: Cycling The Death Road
salar de uyuni
Sightseeing in Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni
la paz
Bolivia's National Day and Sightseeing in La Paz

Hotel Booking:

Hotels in Bolivia
Hotels in La Paz

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Traffic Zebras in La Paz

11:36:00 AM
One of the interesting things you can come across in La Paz is people dressed up like zebras. You might start wondering what's going on, but don't worry, they are just there in order to help you cross the street and to teach the bolivians to respect traffic rules..!
The reason for them to use zebras as mascots, is that the pattern of the zebras fur resembles the pattern of the crosswalk. Also, the kids love them too of course, it is truly easier to "win" the kids trust with a zebra. For some reason people in uniform just doesn't seem to have the same effect.. :p

Posing zebra!
One of the many zebra-posters in town
The zebras are really friendly; often they wave at you and strikes a pose so you can take their picture. They can be really funny to bump into on the street. Sometimes they even do some dance moves in the middle of the street when the traffic light is red. Haha. Here you have a video of some zebras in action (unfortunately no dancing moves though..)

And by the way, I've actually heard that for some reason most of the people working as zebras in La Paz come from abroad, particularly other south american countries. Seems like a funny part-time job, or..? If you've ever dreamed of dancing around in a zebra costume in the middle of the day, in the middle of town, this might just be the job for you. x)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sightseeing in Bolivia: Cycling The Death Road

1:19:00 PM
Today me and Dorte joined Gravity Bolivia on their trip down Yungas Road, better known as el Camino de la Muerte or the Death Road. This road is supposed to be the most dangerous road in the world, and every year there are somewhere between 200 and 300 travellers who end their life's here. Sounds like a fun place to go for sightseeing, right? :-/

So anyway, I persuaded Dorte into joining me for this trip (well, not really, she was actually just as excited as me..), and since Dorte lives downtown I spent the night at her place, and in the morning we walked into the city centre to one of the Alexander cafès which Gravity Bolivia use as their meeting spot. After a quick breakfast the guide picked us up, and the journey began.
After a 45 minute long drive we stopped by a small lake, and got to try out the bikes a little on the normal roads for an easy start. It was really cold, but like we had been told to we were using loads of layers, so it was fine. Luckily the travelling company helps you out a lot also; they have available trousers and jackets for those who want, and you also receive a buff that helps keep you warm.
Ready to hit the road!
Getting down the rest of the bikes for the ride
We started out nice and easy with some practice driving down the normal roads
But don't expect nice and flat pavement once you reach the Death Road..
Unfortunately we didn't get the best weather for the trip. In the start everything was fine, but just as we were getting closer to the Death Road itself it started to get both rainy and foggy, and we couldn't really see much of the view. Which of course was really disappointing.. If you look at the bright side though it might also have been a good thing, cause at least you don't get as frightened by the hight as you might have been if you could have seen it... Still, I would have preferred to see more. Some parts of the trail you could only see a couple of meters in front of you.
Going dooown!
Another group of cyclists posing for their camera. Not that easy to see because of the fog though..
You better be careful when biking on the Death Road, cause you never know what awaits you around the corner..
But even though we couldn't see what was below the road we were cycling at, we were still reminded about the dangers of the road by all the crosses placed by the roadside.
They might not always be that easy to see, but you do pass loads of small crosses going down the Death Road, which reminds you that a lot of fatal accidents occur along this road every year.
You better not be afraid of hights..
Taking a break to take a look at the nice view. At least we were supposed to be taking a look at the nice view, but the weather made that rather impossible.
One of the mountain bikes
After having biked a couple of hours the fog lifted though, and we got to see more of the view. Suddently it was a lot warmer also, and we got to enjoy the trip more. Sadly this was only for the last 30-40 minutes of the trip though:p..
The fog is lifting

After the fog had disappeared we could easily see why this road has been claimed to be the most dangerous road in the world..

Enjoying the view!
"Cozy" Death Road:p
Though this is a really dangerous road, the company we traveled with puts a lot of focus on security. The trip costed us 720 Bolivianos (+ a fee the government makes you pay, but that is not more than 25 boliviano and it goes to maintaining the road). Though you guaranteed can find the trips cheaper with other companies, there is still something odd about thinking "which I the cheapest one?" when you are in fact going down the worlds most dangerous road. Besides, most of the accidents among bikers here happens because the equipment isn't working as it should. Not to mention that some of the other companies drove like crazy today, and I'm really glad I wasn't travelling with one of those.
And although it is more expencive than if you travel with competeting companies, Gravity has a lot of things to offer you beside just the trip: you get free videos and photos from the trip as well as a short stay at the animal rescue shelter La Senda Verde at the end of the trip (for those who are interested, it is possible to work as a volunteer here as well!) where they also have buffet.
The last downhill of the trip, and the entrance to La Senda Verde

Crossing a bridge to the animal shealter
At La Senda Verde you have the chance to take a shower, swim in their swimming pool or simply just chilling out watching the monkeys, the parrots and the other animals enjoying the freedom of the shelter. In addition to all this you also get a free beer and a free t-shirt! And for those who are interesting in a little bit more action you have the chance to go woth a zip-liner at the end of the trip, which costs 160 if you buy it along with your bikecycle-trip, or 200 if you make up your mind at the trip.
A parrot from the animal shealter. ..The cage is actually for us visitors; it's a restaurant:) No animals are put in cage if it is not strictly necessary.

If I were to do the trip again I would not have had any doubts at all about which company to choose..
I have to say though, that the trip back by car was a little bit scarier than the bike trip, the driver was really fast, and there was less fog so we could see everything more clearly. Oh well, now I can say I survived the worlds most dangerous road!
Going back the Death Road by car

Related blogposts

salar de uyuni
Sightseeing in Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni
The Choro Trek
The Choro Trek 1: La Cumbre to Sandillani
la paz
Bolivia's National Day and Sightseeing in La Paz

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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