El Choro Trail: 57 km/35 mile, 19 hours, ↑855 m, ↓4230 m
We hiked the El Choro Inca Trek, Bolivia with a Spanish-speaking guide in May. It is a 3-day, 57 km / 35 mile trek. This thigh (and knee) buster descends from a max of 4859 masl (15942 ft asl) to 1490 masl (4888 ft asl). There is a rapid change in climate and vegetation from the cold, grey, rocky, mountainous Altiplano to tropical, dense, humid jungle.
We carried our clothing, water, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and other supplies. Our guide carried our tent and food. He kept a pretty challenging pace.
Day 1: La Cumbre to Challapampa, 6 hours,↑30 m,↓1985 m
We drove from La Paz to La Cumbre by car. The ride is about 1-2 hours depending on traffic. We started our first 6-hour hike out on gray rocky terrain. It was cold and windy. As we zigzagged down, we saw llamas and shepherds. Some patchy grass appeared as we descended. The patches of grass turned into a mountain-hemmed prairie land with patchy grass and bushes. We finished the day at Challapampa in the “cloud forest.” We camped in fog near a bridge overlooking the flowing river. The campsite dueña had a little store where you could buy snacks, water, and beer. Naturally, Nick bought some beer and we ate our dinner overlooking the flowing river in the fog.
Day 2: Challapampa to San Francisco, 6.5 hours,↑390 m,↓1195 m
This day was greener. We woke up in the foggy cloud forest and walked into dense jungle. The sun was high and the sky was blue. It also became warmer and more humid, but thankfully there were no bugs. After crossing a bridge and ascending through some thick vegetation we arrived at San Francisco at around 2pm. The camp overlooks a green, expansive valley. I was beat and spent the afternoon stretching and laying in the sun like a lazy animalita. Nick bought some beer and relaxed, intermittently playing with the resident chicken and dog.
After dinner, we heard the camp dueña panicking and smelled fire. We got out of our tent to have a look and she looked like she was burning the ground. It looked odd. “¡Hay hormigas!” There was an ant colony heading towards camp. And these ants were big and scary looking. She burnt as many anthills as she could into the night. Luckily it rained later in the night and the ants stayed underground.
Day 3: San Francisco to Chairo 6 hours,↑435 m,↓1050 m
We woke up before dawn at around 5:30 so we could start our hike at 6am. We needed to be in Chairo to catch our ride by 12:00. Early in the walk we saw wonderful waterfalls. Then we walked at a fast pace to make our destination. It grew hotter as we descended. We passed mandarin, banana, and coca farms. Once we reached the finale, we had tuna sandwiches and waited for our car. I was so happy that we finished the amazing hike…but little did I know we weren’t truly finished yet.
Day 3 continued: Chairo to Coroico by car and Coroico to La Paz by minibus
Our driver headed to Coroico on a dusty dirt road. I was aching and tired and happy to be resting in the car. However, since this is Bolivia, the road to the bus station was under construction and there were bloqueos (protesting workers blocking the roads with vehicles). Our car had to take a detour. He dropped us off as close as he could to the bus station, but we still had some walking to do. We walked a painful 15 more minutes to the station.
Then, we caught a minibus back to La Paz. Again, this road was under construction too. The minibus took many strange, and at times scary, detours to get us on the main highway. On the highway, he drove really fast. I clung to my seat and held on tight to the “oh shit” handle. No one else on the minibus seemed phased by the speed. However, we made it out intact.
Overall, it was an awesome hike and one of the highlights of this Bolivian adventure.