The Choro trek is one of the easiest and most accessible hikes in Bolivia. It runs along pre-Columbian Inca road for most of its 70 km and runs downhill for most of its length. We planned to take three days for this hike. The trailhead is just 22 km from La Paz at a high pass in the road called La Cumbre. This is also the start of the infamous Death Road. Annie and I had wanted to up our adventure quotient by hitching a ride to La Cumbre in the back of a truck, however our taxi driver was uncooperative and took us to the bus station despite Annie's clear instructions in Spanish. However we got on a mini-bus that quickly left the station and we were on our way. After an hour the driver pulled over on the side of the road, climbed on the roof to retrieve our bags and we were ready to hike. From La Cumbre which lies at roughly 4600 meters we hiked cross country and uphill, sometimes following a rough road, and making our way to an unmarked pass at 4850 meters. Once we found the pass, the trail became much clearer as we followed a remarkable Inca road which dropped quickly down the ridge towards the valley below. Inca roads are marvels of engineering : the trail was easily 10 feet wide, flat and well graded and in many places built up with perfectly fitted stone blocks. We made good time and stopped at the bottom of the ridge for lunch next to the ruins of an Inca tambo. Tambos were Inca way stations situated roughly 20 km apart (a days walk) all along the Inca system of roads.
After lunch we continued our way down valley. We passed families herding llamas loaded with goods to market and several tiny hamlets, continuing downhill the whole time. Around 2 we were treated to an afternoon rain shower, but Annie and I just donned our rain gear (for the first time in 2 months of hiking) and continued on our merry way. At the end of a long day of hiking we arrived at our camp for the night at a place called Challapampa at roughly 3600 meters in elevation. We made camp and prepared an awesome vegetable pasta for dinner. Figuring that we could carry some extra weight on a three day jaunt, we had picked up veggies at the local market in La Paz and they made our dinner extra special.
The next morning we were on the trail by 9 AM and continued to drop in elevation. As we went lower the valley walks grew taller and steeper and the vegetation slowly changed from alpine tundra to lush tropical cloud forest. We traipsed along the Inca road for kilometer after kilometer until we crossed a suspension bridge above the river at the bottom of valley and started to climb the opposite ridge. After a brief ascent the trail stayed high in the ridge for the rest of the hike. We paused for lunch at a tiny campsite called Bella Vista and it did indeed have a pretty view both up and down valley. In fact we could see our goal for the day-a collection of houses called Sandellani perched on the side of the valley in the distance. A guide for another group of hikers informed us that despite its proximity it was a good six hours away! We soon found out why as after lunch the trail wound in and out of innumerable side canyons, crossing streams and waterfalls and steadily traversing the valley's side. We hiked steadily for hours and oohed and aahed at the many vistas, innumerable butterflies and remarkable array of tropical plants and flowers. After 25 or so kilometers we decided to make camp early at a place called Buena Vista at about 2300 meters above sea level. The dueña (owner) and her daughter were busy trimming gorgeous cala lilies for sale in La Paz while we set up camp in a tiny soccer field carved out of the hill.
Our last day brought us ever lower as the trail dropped towards the valley floor and the end of our hike at the town of Chairo (1800 meters elevation). After a great many switchbacks we arrived in town and gladly negotiated a taxi ride to the jungle resort town of Coroico. There we spent a day recuperating poolside after a long three days on Choro. Coroico proved a pleasant little town and we enjoyed our stay. The only drawback to our pool time were the sand fly bites that left us spotted and itchy. Sand flies are like gnats that bite and seem to inhabit the lower elevations in the Andes (we've encountered them in Peru also). They leave you with red welts that itch furiously for days, but as far as we know they don't carry disease so I suppose they are preferable to mosquitos in that respect.