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Backpacking the El Choro Trek Near La Paz, Bolivia

There aren’t a whole lot of experiences in my life that compare to my solo, 3 day trek from La Cumbre, Bolivia to Choro, Bolivia. Along a trail called “El Camino del Choro.” The hike follows a foot path that connects the main highway to about 5 small villages.

Day 1

I woke up around 7am and grabbed the free bread, butter, jam, and random assortment of fruit from the hostel dining area.

I climbed the cab with a man who only spoke Spanish. Together, we ascended North by car up windy roads into the gnarly Bolivian Andes Mountain range. After about an hour of broken conversation, he pulled onto a dirt road next to a small lake.

I asked, “Where does the trail begin?” in Spanish.

He pointed up the dirt road and mumbled something about when he should be back to pick me up.

I told him that I was walking all the way through to the other side.

“Alone?” He questioned.

“Yes,” I said.

He shook his head and I caught the word “loco” in his slew of mumbled Spanish and he climbed back into the old cab, and drove away.

I began walking up the dirt road and soon realized that I had no idea if I was heading the right way or not.

Ahead of me, a small man was hiking on the road. I ran to catch up with him.

“Where is the trail for the ‘El Choro trek’?” I asked.

“Here,” he replied.

So, I followed him, to the North, off the main road and onto a small foot path that headed up toward the jagged black rocks above. We were soon high above the lake where the cab driver left me.

IMG_5067We came to a rounded saddle between two sharp black ridges and crossed over onto a fairly wide path that separated the cliff wall towering up above me to the left, and the sheer drop cascading below me to my right.

At 16,000+ feet, I wasn’t surprised that I was in the clouds. I caught glimpses of the yellowed grass in the drastic glacial valley below. It contrasted against the dark black rock of the mountain cliffs that I passed along.

I followed along this cliff for sometime, passing a Bolivian family and an old my guiding a pack of Llama up the trail. At this point, I was below the clouds and could appreciate the awesomeness of the valley below. Old ruins were taken over by plants and wild horses roamed on some of the hills to the west.

IMG_5071I reached the valley floor and the trek lead me along a stream. The black cliffs that formed the valley shed rocks that were formed into small fences and barricades to hold in the sheep that called loudly in retort to my presence.

I only assumed that the stone and moss hut I passed contained the owner of these animals.

The walls of the valley lead me and the path West. The dirt were I walked began to morph and eventually became a hand placed stone walkway.

IMG_5108The peaks around me had snow and the valley was barren except for moss. The crisp mountain air, however, was replaced by a rush of incredible warmth and humidity. I passed over a small hill and began to drop down. Plants and greenery replaced the black rocks and soon all I could see was green.

A town appeared. It was the first and largest town I saw on this trek. The foot path was clearly “main street” and there was a school and a church amongst about 20 small huts, separated by stick fences.

Two small boys covered in dirt sat on a stone step that led to a stone and wood hut. “Pan?” one said. He repeated it several times.

I did not know what this word meant. I pulled out my Spanish dictionary.. “Bread.”

I had a loaf and broke of two large pieces.

They devoured it. I continued on.

Passing two small girls, a dog, and an older lady. They were picking things up off the ground and just stared at me as I walked by.

IMG_5121The houses slowly dispersed and I was alone again. I kept close to the stream as the path returned to dirt and became fairly windy. A wooden foot bridge brought me to the other side of the ever growing stream. The green plants were changing from shrubs and grass to trees and vines.

The jungle grew up around me and the stream, now basically a river was quite loud as it crashed its way downward over beautiful white stones.

Ahead, I saw someone climbing on a large rock. I picked up my pace. They too were hikers. One did not speak, but the other was very talkative. He spoke English very well, but was Bolivian.

He told me that he spent about 6 years in the US traveling all over. He seemed very excited that someone from the States would be excited to explore his country in a similar way. He took a picture for me and I moved on.

IMG_5147It was late afternoon and I felt like the landscape had taken a 100% change. It was hot and humid and I was surrounded by jungle. It was much different from standing in the brisk clouds at the top of a mountain pass.

The trail dropped downward and I could see the tops of huts. Beyond the huts was a Jurassic Park-like view. Jungle covered mountains that stretched for miles, and the trail I stood on took me through them.

I reached the huts and crossed an awesome hanging bridge back to the other side of the river. I paid the family that lived in this town 3 Bolivianies (50 cents) and set up my tent in the grassy area designated for backpackers.

A French Canadian couple and their guide were sitting by their tents. I began talking to them later on when we all made dinner at a small table. They spoke poor English and their guide spoke Spanish, so it was a bit odd.

Tired from a long day of hiking, I retired to my bed. The sun had gone down a while earlier. I laid in my tent and sleeping bag curious about what the next day would bring, and before I knew it I was asleep.

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