Choro Trail


The Choro Trail is a path that starts out in the high plains of Bolivia, rises to a 16,000 foot pass, then descends a vertiginous 12,000 feet in three days of hiking to the tropical jungle below.

The trail is believed to be first carved out by the Tiahuanacu. Tiahuanaco was the major civilization of the high plains of the Andes for over 3,000 years, extending its reach from Bolivia well into Peru and Chile.

The trail was used to bring tropical products up to the imperial city of Tiahuanaco (in what is today Bolivia), chief among them the coca leaf for its multiple medicinal purposes and that in pre-Colombian times it was used for money.

In 1,445 AD the Tiahuanacu were conquered by the Inca. The Inca took over and maintained the trail and its trade until being conquered in turn by the Spanish less than 100 years later.

To the Spanish, there were two foot-trails that mattered. One traveled from the Potosi, where all the silver on the Spanish Main originated, to the seacoast of today's Peru, where it could be embarked for Panama. The other trail led to the tropics from which the all important coca could be fetched. At the intersection of these two trails, the city of La Paz was founded, which is today Bolivia's seat of government. Silver and coca, a story to be told someday.

Hikers call the Choro trail, which descends from the La Paz area to the Amazonian tropics, "spectacular but savage". Treks begin in what is essentially the sky above the clouds and end up well below with the clouds way overhead. Sometimes the hike begins in a snowstorm, with temperatures well below freezing. On the first day you will descend 6,500 feet, which is hard on the knees, especially with a full pack for the multi-day trip. The second day is spent in the cloud zone, a dripping land of perpetual fog, as you descend through what is actually the cloud layer in the sky. Watch where you step, it may be hard to see, but it is also a long way down.  On the third day you will see bananas, macaws, and monkeys. On the fourth you will be well into the jungle where anaconda and crocodile live.

Encouraging comments about the Choro trail are that it is possible to follow the trail without getting lost. This is probably because the trail for much of its length is nothing more than a scratch on the side of steep mountains so sheer there is no where else you could possibly go. Here and there may be a cross remembering where someone went over the edge. That's the problem with backpacks, they can be heavy, and if unbalanced, can tend to pull you with them.

Bridges are rickety or washed out, and the trail is so narrow that there are few places to stop and rest let alone stretch out. If you don't time your campsite well, you will be caught on the trail at nightfall, which comes quickly in high-sided mountains near the Equator. With inches to spare, there will be no choice but to scrunch down in the pitch blackness facing the invisible abyss before you with your back to the wall and knees drawn to chin trying not to fall asleep or even nod off, not for a moment. The night will be long, 11 hours at least.

One of the rewards of the trip is that you will eventually reach the town of Coroico.  There you can stop and have a well deserved glass of Singani and toast the mountain gods for letting you through.

Here is a quote from a guy named Rob, and here is a link to his website. Enjoy.

"When we finally reached the mountain pass, the view of the valley far below was beyond words... We were greeted with another wall of switchbacks - this time descending into a lush sea of greenery. Not exactly jungle like the trail will eventually become... but after the stark barren Altiplano, suddenly the world was green - and it was still far, far below us. If you've got vertigo, this view would really reek havoc with your mind. It felt like we were walking THROUGH a movie screen with the world far below... it was almost unreal. Sadly, I don't have a picture of it because I was too lost in the moment. Also - we were already falling behind as this was the beginning of day one on the trek, and night was coming soon."


Photos of the Choro Trail, Bolivia

 

Trail begins, high above the clouds


No, you can't ride a llama down, they only carry about 40 lbs or so


As you approach the cloud zone, it is hard to see, and slippery when wet


Typical foot bridge; distances are deceiving, it's a long way down


Typical footbridge missing planks; at least there's something to hold onto


Typical footbridge... wait, well at least there's a sack


...and ocassionally there is nothing but a single wire


View, almost like Heaven


Easy part of trail, but don't stray off it, on the right is a drop of over a 1,000 feet


Unfortunate part of trail, with drops of thousands of feet over the side, every step you take is precious

 


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