La Paz is nothing like Copacabana. It is more like a larger, poorer, dirtier, less friendly version of Cusco. Like Cusco´s ugly older sibling. The cityscape is random and there are massive rock formations dotting in between the suburbs. A place you really have to see for yourself to truly grasp. Deciding we didn´t want to spend much time there, we booked ourselves in to do the El Choro trek, as it was recommended by some friends. We had it on good authority that it was all downhill....it´s not.
The hike starts in sparse mountainous landscapes at 4860m above sea level. We were surrounded by snow and frozen lakes, accompanied only by our guide, his wife - who we dubbed cholita, and 3 other hikers (2 french girls and a german guy). I suddenly felt that i had severely underestimated the amount of warm clothes i had brought with me, even though i had brought ALL of them (despite the fact this was the first time we´d done a trek where we were required to carry all of our belongings - except for tents and food - but everything else - sleeping bag, sleeping mats, water, clothes etc was on our backs for the 3 days). However within 2 hours of walking we were stripping off jumpers and second pairs of pants as the mid day sun and hiking heated us up. By the end of the first day, we were in green fields next to a river and up until this point it was true, the hike was basically 6 hours of downhill.
Our guide (who only spoke spanish), explained to me that we would be staying at the small campsite as we needed to get some good sleep before another day filled with 6 hours of walking. This seemed to be going according to plan. They starting cooking dinner, BB and I did some yoga by the river to ease our muscles from a day of hiking, the sun began to set, all was tranquil... until. Suddenly, appearing in the darkness we saw 10 Bolivians, around the age of 16. The next time we looked this had doubled. More and more young Bolivianos appeared, carrying next to no equipment, until suddenly in our tranquil campsite we had a whole school group of Bolivianos plus a few teachers. In total they had one 3-person tent between about 30 of them. Over dinner the 7 of us found great amusement in watching them try and figure out some form of campsite, involving two roles of orange plastic. Although school kids being school kids, our campsite was tranquil no more.
The next day we got up early and started out again. All of us grumbling about the amount of noise we´d been exposed to the night before...getting old much??? We were warned that there would be ´20 minutes of uphill´that day. There was. It was about 80º up. We soon discovered that when they say there will be some uphill they only count it if the hill is on more than a 70º angle. Despite them lying about whether the walking would be mostly up or down hill, the scenery was beautiful and had changed dramatically since the previous days hiking. We spent most of the day hiking through cloud forests, past waterfalls and viewing a lot more bird life. That night we were lucky enough to once again share a campsite with the school group - although this time we were much further away from them. We also shared the campsite with a 6 year old girl who lived there. She, like all 6 year olds, needed to know everything we were doing at all times. To the point where she even joined in while i was doing yoga, pretty funny. Even funnier was when she followed Bianca to the (extremely open air) bathroom - which consisted of a wooden see-through hut, a hole in the ground and a few planks - at least it was well ventilated!
The third day, once again, we were lied to about the amount of uphill we were to endure. We had to get up extremely early and start hiking in the dark so as to avoid the mid day sun. By 6am we were on the track - however this meant we were able to watch a beautiful sunrise over the mountains. Most of the third day we walked through jungle type landscape, it was incredible to think we were in such a humid climate when 2 days of walking prior we were surrounded by snow and ice. Around 1pm we arrived at a small town where we ate lunch and then took a bus to Coroico, to get another bus to La Paz.
While the hike wasn´t what it was promised to be (all down hill), it was thoroughly enjoyable and not too strenuous - the uphill parts were definitely a relief for my knees by the end of the second day. The scenery was beautiful and the constant change of landscape meant you didn´t tire of it. I got a lot of thinking done on the trek - as all of the walking was done in silence. During the three days I felt like I figured out all my plans for the next year or so, or at least a rough guide. I feel I gained a lot of perspective on this hike, something that I am very grateful for.