While everyone else who biked the Death Road caught a bus right back to La Paz, we decided to check out the area. Oh, how I wish we had more time to spare! Coroico is a fantastic town.
The road from the animal refuge to Coroico is just like the Death Road, narrow with a steep drop off on one side, except this one is cobblestone. The taxi driver seemed an expert and pulled out on the wider sections to let down hill traffic pass. We checked in to Chawi Hostel, and got a run down of the town’s layout and the best places to visit by the British husband of the Bolivian proprietor.
The view from the hostel
Although Chawi is on the outskirts of Coroico, it took 5 mins to walk to the town square. I think that gives a sense of scale. The view from almost everywhere was of mountains and, as it’s almost jungle, the weather was warm and humid. The only reason to wear a jacket is to keep the mozzies and midgies from biting.
Lots of bananas
We stopped in at Carla’s Garden Pub for pancakes and cocktails for dinner (‘cos we’re adults and we can). It’s a relaxing place with good food, owned by an expat.
The next morning, over breakfast, we had a lively chat with the four other guests. We compared border crossing stories and discussed Latin American politics. They also suggested various activities Michael and I should do in Coroico, most involving hiking.
Walking through town
We started out with the idea of walking to a river or something, then I saw a minibus with a sign in the window ‘cascadas’. So, we climbed in and waited a few minutes for the bus to fill. All others appeared to be returning home with groceries from a morning shopping the biggest town in the area.
After driving for maybe 20 minutes along a dirt road, the last passengers hopped off. I told the driver we were going to the cascadas, to which he said there are 4 possible stops – I told him to pick one.
Cascade number 2
A 100? metre high waterfall cascading down the rocky cliff and into a swimming pool. The jungle plants overhang the pool and butterflies danced circles around me.
We paid 3 bolivianos for an entry ticket (what’s that? 30c Australian, maybe). And used the change rooms. There was a family with 3 kids in the pool and a father with a baby. What I wasn’t expecting was how freezing the water was. On closer inspection, the kids were goosebumped and had chattering teeth. Maybe the hike was meant to heat you up enough to not mind the water temperature, but after a bus ride it took a bit of self talk.
The water was not warm
The swim was good. Michael climbed up the waterfall a few metres, where there was a shallow natural pond. The descent looked slippery and scary. We had a nice relaxing morning, with just one issue – midgies. Any part of skin out of the water was an instant target for the little flies. We left with a small collection of itchy bites each, but not enough to make the waterfall swim not worthwhile.
The pool built at the bottom
When we left there were six people in the water, a large family just arrived, and a full minibus of people disembarking. Perfect timing. We had a quick lunch in Coroico, collected our bags from the hostel, and walked to the bus station. At just this point there was rumbling and lightning across the valley. The black clouds let go and we watched as the heavy rain descended down the neighbouring mountain, slowly getting closer to us. No locals appeared worried though. Apparently, all storms from that direction peter out before reaching Coroico. And as our minivan to La Paz pulled out of the town, only a few drops hit the windscreen.
Another bike of Bolivia
It’s a three hour drive on the new bitumen road back to La Paz, no public buses take the Death Road anymore. Not that it’s much safer; the drivers still take corners too fast, overtake on blind corners, and often seem to drive on the wrong side just because.
We soon joined up with the road we had taken just the day before, but it couldn’t appear more different. The yellow – brown spinifex covered mountains, were now white with snow. We closed all of the windows and rugged up. And just like that, our tropical swim in a waterfall fed pool seemed like a distant memory.