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February 28th, 2014

An account of the Trans-Apolobamba trek, Bolivia

Rosemary Morlin has kindly shared her experience of trekking the little known, off-the-beaten-track Trans-Apolobamba trek in Bolivia.

We eventually reached Pelechuco in the late afternoon despite interminable traffic jams in El Alto and frequent stops at army and police checkpoints where the police and soldiers took more than a passing interest in the camping equipment on the roof-rack, fearing that it might be contraband to be smuggled into Peru. I had to tell them that I was merely a British tourist on holiday hoping to do the Apolobamba trek. We spent the first night in accommodation at the back of a grocer’s shop.

When we awoke the next day the square was full of people exchanging empty gas containers for full ones. We gradually made our ascent through the village past a small forest of quenua trees and followed the path to the top of the pass. The horses and arriero soon caught up with us and there was a notable hissing sound coming from one of horses. One of the gas containers hadn’t been closed securely and the horse was clearly frightened. Luckily the guide and the arriero were able to fasten it tightly and no more gas escaped.

We pushed on to the top of the pass and then descended to our first camp after quite an arduous day. We were away by 9 a.m. the next morning and stocked up on batteries in Illo Illo and then followed the mining track to our second camp just below the Sunchuli Pass. While we were eating our supper there was a thunderstorm and I was afraid that the communal dining tent would either collapse or catch fire. It brought back memories of a freak storm in Germany in 1968.

We woke up the next day to several inches of snow. We made our way up to the Sunchuli Pass which is 5,101 metres above sea level and then the walk to our next camp was relatively easy following the mining track.

The third day of the trek was the most arduous descending the aptly named mil curvas (a thousand bends) a steep and rocky path with tight turns down a narrow gully and then an ascent to another pass which seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. The descent was made difficult by a blizzard but we eventually reached camp in daylight.

We set off early the next day and I was beginning to regret having eaten so many of the cook’s delicious pancakes. Later on we were accosted by a campesina who offered us some soup which was delicious and she showed us some of the scarves and chullos she had knitted from alpaca wool. The combination of pancakes, soup, and blisters on the soles of my feet slowed me down somewhat but I eventually made it to the edge of Curva where our transport was waiting.

Soon after leaving Curva we spotted a condor and I returned to La Paz happy that I had completed the trek which had taken me into a remote area of Bolivia where few people dare to venture.

Click here for more information on inspirational holidays in Bolivia.

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