North Bolivia (Yungas)

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Iíve been four times to Bolivia. The First time was in 1992, as part of a journey through Bolivia, a small part of Brazil, and Paraguay, for six weeks. The second time was in 1993, to marry my Bolivian better half. The third time in 1999 to show my newborn boy to his family, and in 2006 to show off with my second boy as well.


Anecdote Weeks before I married, I went to Sorata, a nice mountain village 50 km north of La Paz, together with my good friends Frans and Marijke. The altitude is more to my likings, 2300 mtr instead of 4000 mtr in La Paz, and finally we get some more precious oxygen in our veins.

We visited a new hotel, which happened to have the same German owner as the small hotel I visited with the family, the year before.

The hotel is big, typically Bolivian but with a touch of German grundlichkeit. The owner enjoyed German beer, and was in a conversational mood. He told us all about the history, his travels and the trekkings he organises. He generously offered us beers, but we couldnít finish them at his pace. Heís got a nice day trip for sale: to a mountain at 4300 mre, with an outrageous view of the Illampu (6368 mtr). That sounds interesting, He called his guide, and so it was settled. Start at 6:30 am L

The trail started very easy, through pasture and shrubbery. After about an hour I started to feel my legs, but we canít stop as we have to be back before sunset, and itís 16 km horizontal and 2 km vertical. After another hour I considered to have a nice break down, but looking at the sportive impression Marijke made, I decided that it was too early to admit that Iím a wimp.

Finally a pause, and then I realized how beautiful and magnificent it was. I was busy all the time to look at the rocks in front of me, and to adjust my breathing to my heart pace. Man, weíre already at altitude. Then the guide told us that we hadnít even arrived at half the trek. I really hate ďcapullosĒ who know how to destroy my happy mood.

We continued the climb. Marijke is flying up, her husband Frans was probably in the same mood as me, the guide had no issues whatsoever, and I felt left alone with my feelings. Many heavy hours further we increased the number of breaks. The thin air didnít help climbing, but as I quited smoking already for hours now, I felt better than expected, but still dead meat.

Marijke arrived first, and we didnít even try to beat her. Thin air had itís impact on my brain. I saw visions of me strangling this sportive woman, who was constantly shouting things like ďcome on, youíre almost there nowĒ in such a fresh and sparkly voice, where I felt like crap in capitals. The last part was the steepest, and after every ten meters up I had to stop and gasp for air. Fortunately I noticed Frans imitating a goldfish too, now thatís company. Finally we arrived at a flat field, the top of the mountain. There was a beautiful small lake, but I couldnít be bothered to walk that full ten meters to the shore. First things first.

The mountain was covered with heavy clouds, but the sun opened up for Marijke, so she could see that spectacular sight of the majestic Illampu. Before I could crawl there, the clouds closed the scene. Near the lake there was this inca ruin of a temple, for priests to be overwhelmed by the Illampu at sunrise. They must have lodged there, as thereís no way these guys could run up that mountain like that to be in time for sunrise.

Itís a pity I missed the Illampu, but whenever the sky cleared a bit, the view was magnificent. We didnít had much time to enjoy it, as the guide insisted we would descend, as we were the slowest of all his guests and we were already late.

You would think that ascending is the heavy part, but I found out it isnít. Descending showed to be pretty hazardeous, loose stones, and an impact on the knees with every step down. Fatigue makes careless, and thatís risky, particularly when itís starting to get dark. The last part wasnít steep, just long, very long. We entered the first little restaurant we could find, and enjoyed a well earned beer. Tired but fulfilled.
Google earth can visit this place by clicking here

After Sorata we visited Coroico. This is what you could call a cute mountain village. It's januari, so the start of the summer, and all plants and trees are blossoming. The village itself is rather small and very idyllic.
I was sitting in a pub, together with my fiancee and her father, overlookinh the village square. To my surprise I saw a few negro boys playing. Where did they come from, as they didn't look like any Bolivian I'd seen so far, and they didn't resemble Inca descendents. I asked my fiancee, and at that moment I noticed a black priest entering the church. Aha, I got it.
My fiancee was very offended and didn't want to talk for a full day.

It turned out to be descendents of slaves, who escaped the Potosi silver mines, about 500 km. south. They went to live in the surroundings of Coroico, and still live in small and poor communities. That's why.

The road from La Paz to Coroico is spectacular. A dirt road creeping up on vertival walls. Check it out by clicking here, a powerpoint presentation of someone else.


Map of Bolivia
My Google Maps of South America
Complete photo-album of Bolivia

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