“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
The next morning, we set off from La Paz to Coroico, first stopping at the legal coca market on the way out. Coca leaf, often referred to as la hoja de coca, is a plant that is an integral part of the Andean and overall Bolivian culture. For those who do not know what coca leaf is, I will use Evo Morales famous quote that “coca no es cocaine.” Most people assume that the coca leaf is cocaine when in fact it is not.
Yes, the coca leaf is used to make cocaine; but chewing coca leaf can not be compared to consuming cocaine at all. Coca leaf is an incredibly powerful plant with medicinal properties, rich in nutrients and helps with altitude sickness, headaches, exhaustion and more. Chewing the coca leaf is a cultural practice and is an integral part of the economy, life and can be summarized by the phrase that people often told me that is “coca es vida.” Coca is life. (More on coca later).
(Taking a break from the bus ride and taking a stroll on the side on Death Road, a popular biking destination now and a road that is the most dangerous in the world and used to be the only way to get to Coroico until the new road was built)
The ride to Coroico was far from pleasant, however the stunning views of the Yungas mountains and valleys more than made up for it. At the top of the pass, we stopped and had a blessing ceremony and nearly were blown off the mountain by the powerful winds.
(The beautiful and bumpy as heck ride from La Paz to Coroico)
The moment I got out of La Paz I felt like I could breathe! La Paz just wasn’t my cup of tea and while there were many experiences that I loved including the Grand Poder….like many cities around the world it is so stressful! The Yungas region is absolutely stunning, not to mention warmer and we could all breathe easier as the altitude dropped from 14,000 ft to 5,000ft.
(Our beautiful arrival at Hotel Esmerelda where our lovely guides Sonia and Lucio greeted us with a cake to celebrate our professor’s twenty year anniversary of her work in Bolivia and welcome us with wreaths of coca leaves and flowers)
Somehow our bus made it to the top of the cobblestone and windy hill at the top of Coroico where we met up again with Lucio and Sonia, our in country guides and some of the kindest people that I now call friends. We spent the rest of the day settling in, jumping into the freezing pool to refresh and walking around soaking in the beautiful scenery.
(A local soccer game that was so entertaining with fights, goals, tears, heartbreak and more proof that the whole world is better at soccer than the States).
The next day we took in a fun soccer game down at the field and had a blast cheering and enjoying each other’s company.
(Drinking from a fountain that is said to bring you back to Coroico in the future if you drink from it…and survive the unsanitized water LOL)
Coroico is very small and easy to navigate around, but wow….the hills are no joke. It is a struggle to walk and navigate the precarious hills and cobblestone sidewalks.
(Almost everyone in the group except Miranda…DONDE ESTA…at the entrance to this beautiful and special place)
More to come about the following days and experiences in Coroico!