Choro Trail

Posted by on Sep 15, 2013

Choro Trail

When I was in Iguazú, I met a couple of English doctors who were travelling together and it was they who recommended the Choro Trail as well as the Uyuni Tour (Marina, you also told me about it). The description sounded appealing: Three days of hiking from the high mountains behind La Paz down to the jungle in Coroico. ‘Erh hmmm…add to cart.’

‘We did it with Travel Tracks and it was great,’ one of them said brightly. ‘Great guides and really good service.’

I found the Travel Tracks office in the narrow cobbled streets of La Paz’s popular tourist market (calle Sagárnaga between Linares and Illampu for those who want to follow in my footsteps). The equivalent of about $100 and you get a guided three day tour with meals and transport included.

We were four, two women from Belgium, a girl from Germany and me, and two guides. I in no way regret the tour, only the food made me ill for the second time in Bolivia and with hindsight I would say that you don’t need guides. The road is well market and easy to follow and if you travel in a group of say three, you could split the cooking and camping equipment between you. As it was I did the tour which began at the highest part of the pass behind La Paz, at about 5,000 meters and from there the path was to descend 3,800 meters down to the town of Coroico. The instructions: pack for three days walking from ice to jungle.

 Pockets of cloud hung in the lower valleys or drifted in patches up the sides of the mountains, past waterfalls which appeared as long thin lines against the textured green contours of the tree covered slopes.

When we began, we started at the top of a valley and down below us we could see the clouds running between the ice-covered ridges on either side. We descended off the snow onto a stony track that clung to the side of the cliff. As we moved down, the clouds were also moving up the valley and soon they enveloped us, visibly forced upwards by some force from below. In the mist the dull rattle of a bell warned us that a donkey train was making its way up the path below us. Soon the line of mules picked its way into view, walking in single file, bags bulging on their backs. At the rear, a Bolivian woman in tradition dress kept the reluctant beasts on the move.


We stopped at some old ruins by the road where it levelled out and we could see much further down the valley. In the bright sunshine llamas could be seen grazing around us and the beginnings of a stream picked its way about the moss and tundra lined rocks and crevices. After stopping for lunch in small settlement, by which time the stream had grown in size, we continued along a well marked, and in some places paved and intact, old Inca trail. We walked through other stone settlements huddled in open valley by the river, my stock of sweets diminishing each time we encountered children, until the road became much steeper and the flora started to change. In the distance we could make out our campsite for the night but it was two hours before we arrived.

Set up camp, wait for dinner to be cooked for us (benefits of the tour) and to bed. That was the routine we followed for three days. But while the routine was the same, the countryside was not, changing continuously as we descended. Day two started in an idyllic river side setting with bright sunshine and white fluffy clouds. Add little birds chirping and you’ve got yourself a daydream. Yesterday’s wide cold austerity was replaced with dense vegetation and a rising temperature as we squished our way along a now muddy track, listening to the sound of the river crashing over rocks which rose up to meet us from the gorge below. Replacing the moss covered rocks were tall flowering grasses by the side of the path – had I just descended 20 degrees in latitude, or ascended?

Quite soon we left the gorge in which we had descended down from pass, entering another larger one. Looking away north east I could see vast hillsides covered in a thick carpet of trees rising up on both sides into a perpetual mantle of cloud that hid the summits. To the right the path disappeared around the side of the hill, reappearing in the middle of the slope some distance further off, drawing the eye further around as this pattern was repeated into the distance. Pockets of cloud hung in the lower valleys or drifted in patches up the sides of the mountains, past waterfalls which appeared as long thin lines against the textured green contours of the tree covered slopes. Sometimes the cloud would pass us, enveloping us in mist and shrouding the grand vista behind a curtain of white and dampening the sounds in a momentary stillness where the trudging sounds of six pairs of laden feet in our immediate surroundings was the only continuity.


The following day was up and down, beginning with a consistent descent before climbing sharply; nearly 1,000 vertical metres of winding stone steps covered in grass. Upon reaching the end of the climb, gasping and sweating we could see a small clearing on a hillside in the distance – our lunch stop. From there we were told it was two more hours of walking before the final steep descent to the finish. Rather weary by this point we counted out loud the ten distinct turns of the rocky paths as it zigzagged its way down to a small, rainy settlement, which market the end of our Choro Trail adventure.