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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Cordillera Real Day by Day

Hola Yak Board! We are back from an amazing trek in the Cordillera Real and have just moved into our homestays in El Alto.  I’ll give you a bit of a blow by blow of our five days of trekking.

Day One: Left Sorata on foot.  Picked up some bread in town and dropped of our big bags to the arieros.  We walked through Sorata at a reasonable pace and after an hour the shops turned to rural farmland and the pavement became loose dirt underfoot.  It took us around six hours to get to camp.  Couple thousand feet of elevation gain. Highlights include: Dukey the poop shovel, Pepe the emergency mule, and the last glimpses of Sorata before heading into the thick Andean fog.  With tents set up and the first dinner crew working hard, the rest of us played hacky sack.  Ramiro – in charge of pepe – joined in and thought it was hilarious whenever we messed up.

Day 2: The clouds broke for five minutes in camp to reveal the unknown beauty of our campsite.  It was a fun five minutes.  Once back in the sock we pushed forward for an exciting day two.  We were going up again with our lunch stop being at a high mountain lake.-  Up and up we went until we reached the lake.  Unfortunatley I forgot my swimsuit, but Molly and Itza still braved the cold.  Then we got lucky.  Out of  nowhere the wind changed directions to reveal a herd of sheep (over a hundred) from out of the mist.  It was surreal and definetly the highlight of the day.

Day 3: In honour of Liza´s parting words- to be present in the moment – we decided to space everyone out twenty seconds for a time of self reflections and nature immersal.  I think it was a lot of people’s highlight for the entire trip.  We were traversing a mountain and hiden treasure was behind every mountain vein.  There were waterfalls, burn zones, llama herds and huge exposed rocky cliffs.  Beautiful.  Also I got a much needed cold river swim during lunch.  Overall the day took 5 hours to reach the lake we would spend the next two days.

Day 4: Laguna Glacier day.  Jackson, Molly, Ned, Gabe, Brian and I battled our way though some really steep, high altitude climbing to reach the lake at 16 600 feet.  We were a stark contrast to our guide Ricardo.  That man must have some hidden O2 tank. Anyways it took us around 4.5 hours to get to the lake and I am so glad we persevered.  The lake was stunning and the weather cooperated.  To our left was Illampu, the most impressive mountain I have ever seen.  In front of us was a glacier that ran right into the water and our left showed a series of huge jagged mountains.  With such a beautiful landscape we had to jump in.  Ricardo said that was the first time he’d seen anyone swim.  Felt like a cool title.

Day 5: Time to go down! Woke up to a perfectly clear morning and a clear day.  We descended 600 feet and moved through multiple Bolivian biomes: barren rock, to cactus line, to grassland and finally into the jungle.  The delayering was as difficult as the hike.  It was so satisfying to travel through Sorata once again and down the hill to Altai Oasis.  I have never done a hike where you start and stop at the place you are staying.

I hope you enjoyed the update!