Sunday, May 15, 2005

Palca valley hike, plans and good old friends...

The great pillar in the middle of Palca Valley


After returning from Sorata with Christine and Stephanie, I have hiked with Uri to Palca valley and later planned to go with Christine and Stephanie to Coroico and afterwards, to Rurrenabque. Plans, however, changed repidly and a day before going up to a trail up up in the mountains sorrounding the Illimani from north I have indulged into deep thinking...

La paz, the Stinky city, has greeted us all with warm rays of light. Christine and Stephanie stayed on the other side of the valley (means, the Santa cruz death road in La paz) and I returned to the comfy Austria hostel. Returning to the hostel, I was accommodated with a very nice Israeli guy, Uri, a Moshavnic from the north, near Maagan Michael. I´ve met Uri a week and a half before, when I went to my Huyana-Potosi and they traveled for Sorata, to do a seven day tour there.
After chilling out for one day, I went the next day with Uri to a nice day hike in the north-eastern parts outside La paz, in the Palca valley, where an enormous stone pillar erects up from the valley. We took a bus full of locals and headed out of La paz early in Thursday´s morning. On the way we stopped for cement sacks loading (as if the bus was not heavy already...) and after 30 min stop we continue to the outskirts of La paz. Finally, the bus driver dropped us near the valley and we started going down. The view was fantastic (pictures will be loaded soon..), with Illimani white silluote illuminating against the deep blue sky in that lovely morning. The hike was easy, even though I felt a bit dizzy due to the height of this valley (over 4000 m) but generally, we had a very nice day outside La paz. Around noon we came to the enormous pillar, which laid a long shadow over the river route and we quickly made a short stop for lunch (2 breads pieces). We continued with the river route and soon started our way up to Palca, a little town situated between enormous mountain ranges. On the way up we saw amazing rock formations (which are the characteristic of the all region) and squeezed another couple shots. Coming into town was a surprise, as we were the only people walking in this town. Soon we found the plaza and the place were we could take a bus back to La paz. At 1 pm a bus came and we hurriedly went toward it.
"It looks like we gonna stand all the way, the bus is full" commented Uri, and even though he was technically wrong, the general idea was not that far. Going up the bus, full of Chola, Men and children, we were seated the pass between the two rows of seats, on top of enourmous piles of merchandise. Holding tight on the ceiling bars we started our way back to La paz. This was a very tideous 2 and half hour ride, passing narrow roads hanging over 100 m cliffs, and going up and straight through the one of the mountain ranges. Amazingly, the bus managed to haul all of us up a 1000 m´ road climb. The view, when we could see something, was amzingly, if not a bit frightengly, as the bus was not balanced, and sometime it cranked toward the abyss...All this time, people were eating, breast-feeding babies (and the Cholas leaving their breasts to wobble freely in the fresh air...) and some small talks. Our backs were ruined by the end of this trip. But that was not the end of it..Getting close to town, people started to get off the bus, or more accurately, were shoving themselvs over all the merchanidise piles, and through me and Uri. As Uri suffered more than I am from his back and hands (he got a really lousy "seat"), he took the first available seat (which was also stuffed with sacks and other stuff). As i did`nt undertand the Ayamara dialect, I didnt understand what the "conductor", an obnoxious man drooling now and then, and I found my self at the center of a communal-indian joke and laugh, which was quite abusive. Without anything to do, I just sat there and was boiling inside. At some point, I stopped conveying with the driver and the conductor (and the hell with practicing espanol) and I was glad when we reached center La paz.
In the evening I´ve met with Christine and Stephanie for a nice dinner at the El Cubano restaurant, a very good and not too expensive Cuban restaurant down the Prado, on Arce avenue. Over dinner, Christine overlaid their plans ahead: to take a bike down the death road and settle for a couple of days up in Coroico, and then head north to Rurrenabaque. There, they planned to tour the near Pampas basin for a couple days and then to head for Trinidad, a small town north-eastern of Rurrenabaque. From there, they planned to go by boat to Manaos, a port town on the Rio Amazon in Brazil. This is a very long boat tour, and after touring the jungles there, they planned to go up stream south to another town and from there back to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, via the death train. That sounded quite an adventure for to, even though it was a very long tour (at least a month), which most of it will be on Brazilian soil, which is quite expensive. Eventually, decided to join them, and we decided that we will meet the next day at Coroico, Friday the 13th...While they´ll do the death road on bike, I will do it by bus...I returned from dinner and went right away to pack my stuff for the jungle. However, when I finally decided to close the Cholas bag (a big strong nylon bag cholas use for their merchandise) I found out the zipper was broken..Cursing, I had no choice but to buy another one the next morning. I wanted to leave as soon as possible, so I woke up early and while boiling some water in the kettle I went to do the hostel desk to arrange my departure.
"Chen!" was shouted out of one of the rooms, with a distinct voice. Taking several steps back, I found Chen standing in his room, all unshaved and totally tired from a night bus from Uyuni. I´ve met Chen and Barak, two nice Israelis from Eilat, at the hostel a week and a half ago, before they went south to Tupiza. Before I departed for Sorata, we talked about doing the Choro trek together, but then I forgot to leave them an email..I have tought our paths have seperated, but no, they werent...They told me that following a 2 day relaxation in La paz, they plan to do the trek and asked me if I would like to join them. Suddenly, I was in a dilemma...Here I was like a log on the Tuichi, cruizing down the river of live were the stream can take you anywere it wants. Well, all most. I told him I need to drink coffee over this, as I have some others plans. Which one is better was my decision. Weighing the different paths was not easy, as both options were compelling: The Choro was something I wanted to do the moment I got to La paz, and on the other hand, the adventure smell that raised from Christine plan was also appealing. Which one to take?? The money issue was the heavy weight in this balancing dilemma, and I chose the Choro. Brazil will wait. OK. Now, I have to contact the two ladies, which were at that time having breakfast before their journey down hill..
After sending an email to Stephanie, I was with time on my hands and I went to wander in the markets, looking for additional stuff I need.
Friday and Saturday went swiftly, while the three of us doing some shopping for the up coming trek. We wanted to consult before going for this trek (and take also a map..), so we made our way to Shaul, a veteran trekker living in La paz, which arranges tours off the beaten track in Bolivia. Talking with him for an hour an half, we were managed to change our destination to a high trek which would lead us to beautiful lagoons...In addition, Shaul has suggested that we might do the jungles of Madidi through his service, at a lower price and at a more remote site in the park. Apart from his financial interests, I also took into consideration the already known fact that the Madidi park tours from Rurreabaque are very touristic and due to that less and less animals are seen from the beaten track. Considering this option we left Shaul with information an a topo map (copy) and went back to our hostel, delaying our departure for an additional day, as the average height of this trek will be arround 5000 m, and we all needed some more acclimatization. Too much time on my hand, my brain started to do some time cruzing and soon I found my self thinking about my future back in Israel...What shall I do and how? I tried to wave these unimportant thoughts, but for vein. They were stubborn as an 80 year old tree...Eventually, and after discussing these issue with my family, I have been successful in postponing any though about this issue to future times...

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