Sorata and the Cordillera Real, Boliva

7 Jun 2004 8:00 pm

Sorata_1I first heard of Sorata from this guy Bob who I met way down south in Puerto Natales, Chile about 3 months ago. Bob was from Jackson, Wyoming and knew South America quite well. For Bob, Sorata is tops, but otherwise, no one has even heard of Sorata. Sorata is about 100 km north of La Paz, tucked away at a cozy 2500 meters up in the mountains of the Cordillera Real. The guidebooks have labeled Sorata the treking capital of Bolivia. My plan: Get to Sorata and meet some other people to trek with, hire some guides donkeys and walk for several days.

Sorata is a small town in the Bolivian Andes. Read, frequent road blocks, power outages, cute little plaza in town center, huge vistas of terraced mountains in every direction, small but colorful markets, kids with runny noses, women with tiny feet, big hips and long, long black braids, big blue skies over dry rugged land, and pizza restaurants for the few gringos who are willing to risk their lives traveling the narrow and disintegrating mountain roads. When I arrived there really wasn’t much going on at all, and I began to loose hope of finding treking partners.


With great luck I met a dynamic duo in Jon and Seth on day 1 while walking down the road toward caves just passed the pueblo of San Pedro. Jon and Seth are a father and son team from Sitka, Alaska. From the first moment they were friendly, fun and silly and we laughed and told stories all day long as we walked along the beautiful road to and from the caves in San Pedro. Somehow, I managed to charm these guys into joining me on a three day trek they call Dos Lagunas.

One guide, two mules, and plenty of Snickers and red wine later, we were on our way to Lago Chillata, just about a 4000 foot climb up from Sorata. Four thousand feet in a day sounds pretty ambitious, but the mules carried absolutely everything so it wasn’t so bad and we had great sunny weather as we zigged and zagged up through fields and pastures. I fell in love a dozen of time with teeny tiny little newborn sheep. Our guide, Mario, didn´t speak English but was happy to cater to our every need and washed all the dishes. Horray Mario!

That night it was full moon and it rose from behind Cerro Illampu, one of the highest peaks in the entire Cordillera Real. The moon was incredibly bright and illuminated the lanscape for miles and miles. Stunning. This beautiful night was also the coldest night in my entire life. At 4,500 meters in an old 15 degree sleeping bag and an ultra lightwieght summer tent, I think I cried more than I slept. I was COLD.

Next day we left everything behind but lunch and climbed another 2,000 feet to Laguna Glacier. The air was thin and I was without energy and really didn’t think I would make it as far as the lake but little by little I somehow did and it felt great to get up there and chow my avocado sandwich.

The second night I begged for mercy and Jon and Seth agreed to sleep in my spacious tent with me so I wouldn´t freeze. For a few hours I was snug as a bug between heaps of down feathers until…… in the middle of the night Seth was struck with food poisoning. Poor Seth was miserable with terrible stomach pains and the works, and so were we because he was farting like you wouldn’t believe. This went on all night – I was plenty warm, but still didn’t sleep.

Day three was an all down hill through a small pueblos and pastures and passed the baby sheep back to Sorata. Seth was feeling pretty bad but he made it down in good time. I´m sure Mario was quite through with us.

I don’t know if I’ll get back to Sorata one day. It’s an extremely rugged and beautiful part of the world and will always be a very special place for me. Thanks Mario and Jon and Seth.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.