Where in the world can you travel two hours, drop 1500 meters, and go from a temperate climate to a tropical one? I’ll give you a hint…it rhymes with solivia.
This last weekend we decided to get away after the immigration insanity and take a bit of family time somewhere warm. We heard that many Bolivians travel to a town called Coroico due to its amazing temperatures, and proximity to La Paz so we decided to try it out. There are two ways to reach this town. One is via the “most dangerous road on earth” (aka Death Road) or by a newer highway. Many tourists opt for Death Road taking “gravity assisted mountain biking” tours down a sketchy path with nothing but a mountain on one side and a jagged precipice on the other. We chose the newer highway. Although that was our choice, for a long time I wasn’t sure we hadn’t somehow gotten on the wrong bus and ended up on Death Road.
For $5/person, we all piled into a station wagon style vehicle (Amelia in my lap) and began our ascent to 4800 meters. I guess you have to go up before you can go down. When we stopped for gas, all of the passengers remained in the running vehicle while the driver fueled up (my heart nearly stopped, but Duane assured me it’s very difficult to light anything at that altitude). We passed plateaus full of grazing llamas and alpacas and entered into some hostile looking mountains where somehow people had settled. The bumpy road twisted continually making visibility difficult, but that never seemed to deter the driver from passing.
We continued up until there was no more up to go, and came to our favorite part of the road that travels along the spine of the mountain…views on either side, and road as wide as there is space. And then we began our descent into lush and humid tropical valleys. I was amazed at how quickly the topography and climate changed.
Our driver opted for a bit of a short cut, and this is truly where we experienced our own Death Road. He cut off the paved, single lane highway onto a single gravel path…and when I say gravel I don’t mean what we have in Canada…I mean gravel the size of a fist. We bounded down the mountainside, passengers gripping their seats, everyone silent, steep cliffs mere inches from our tires simply to shave off a few minutes of travel.
When we almost reached the base of the mountain, we started our climb back up to the beautiful hamlet of Coroico, set at 1200m, surrounded by green abundance. Our ‘resort’ was set outside of the town, perched on the mountainside in an old coffee plantation turned Ecolodge. For only $50/night we had an amazing cabin with breathtaking views, an outdoor kitchen and profound silence. The temperature was on average 25-30C. We could walk around the property where there were many coffee plants (that provide organic coffee for all the guests), coca plants, banana palms, lime trees and tropical flowers. We spent our days lying in hammocks, swimming in the pools, and exploring (as much as one can with a toddler). When we got there Amelia said, “I love it here. I’ll live here when I’m older”.
|The view from our porch|
|Biggest fiddlehead fern I've ever seen|
|Air filled spiky balls|
|These guys were everywhere|
|Milly learning how to swim|
Our trip back was just as eventful. We drove through thick clouds, with limited visibility all set to an eighties/early nineties music montage that lasted for over an hour. On our descent back into La Paz I became convinced that our minivan had mechanical difficulties/possible brake trouble as our driver coasted down hills and had minimal, jerky use of his brakes. Thankfully we made it back in one piece…only a little travel weary.
There’s nothing like some time away to make one thankful for “home” no matter how small, uncomfortable, or different it may be. I think all three of us felt this when we arrived at our apartment in Sopocachi, La Paz. We have all started referring to this place differently and felt a sense of relief when we experienced the familiarity of our neighborhood streets. I loved Coroico, but I’m not sure how soon I’ll be ready to make that journey again.