Cordillera Real Trek Day 13: Chiar Khota To Campsite Above Botijlaca

Previous Post: Day 12 – Juri Khota To Chiar Khota

  • time: 7:45 – 1:45 p.m.
  • distance:   12.1 kilometers
  • high point:  4995 meters
  • campsite: campesino field (3811 m) two kilometres above Botijlaca
  • route: kml file here
Day 13 - Distance and Elevation

Day 13 – 12.5 km.  and a couple of passes in the 5000 m range

Our last full day of trekking!  I don’t know why it happens but as I approach the end of an extended trip – as enjoyable as it has been – I start looking forward for it to be over. Lately in the dining tent the conversation has been all about plane connections and shopping in La Paz and it is clear that everyone is shifting their focus as we near the end. One thing I looked forward to was a real hot-water shower.  The glacial streams near our daily campsites meant clean-ups were pretty quick and perfunctory!

Before we left camp we got to watch the donkeys and llamas as they got the day’s workload. The donkeys carry much heavier loads than the llamas and accept their fate with resignation. The arrieros load them with little fuss.  The llamas are a different story.  Instead of thirty kilograms, they take ten; instead of resignation, they squirm and move about and give you that delightfully haughty look as they stare you straight in the eye.  The llamero, a guy who goes by the nickname El Largo thanks to his 1.8 meter (6 feet) frame, loads his animals along with his helper. It takes a bit longer and, unlike the donkey team, there are spare llamas who are there to relieve those with loads later in the day. Our guide tells us that llameros and llamas who have been trained to do the job are increasingly scarce in Bolivia.

Day 13 - Chiar Khota to just before Botijlaca

Day 13 – Chiar Khota to just before Botijlaca

looking down Chiar Khota from the campsite

looking down Chiar Khota from the campsite

llamas coralled fand ready for a day's work

llamas corralled and ready for a day’s work

llamas at Chiar Khota before the loading begins

llamas at Chiar Khota before the loading begins

the donkeys - the real workhorses of the trek!

the donkeys – the real workhorses of the trek!

looking back at Pico Austria above Chiar Khota

looking back at Pico Austria above Chiar Khota

We left Chiar Khota and headed directly for the pass between Aguja Negra and Nevado Jallayco. It is a 350-meter climb and before we got there we stopped for a couple of breaks. Looking back at Chiar Khota we also got a splendid last view of Pico Austria and the pass. Cloud cover still prevented a full view of the Condoriri peaks however!  Conditions would deteriorate further as the morning progressed!

the day's first pass - above Chiar Khota

catching our breath near the day’s first pass – about 350 meters above Chiar Khota

the day's two passes as seen fron the north

the day’s two passes as seen from the north

A quick little dip down into the next valley and then it was “up” to the last pass of the trek, a landmark that I’ll admit celebrating.  Looking up towards the pass, significant cloud could be seen. By the time we got to the pass, it was obvious that some bad weather was on the way. The wind had picked up and the rain was not far behind.

the view from the top of the day's first pass

the view ahead from the top of the day’s first pass above Chiar Khota

a closer view of the next - and last - pass of the trek

a closer view of the  last  pass of the trek

Huayna Potosi wrapped in cloud - our best view

Huayna Potosi wrapped in cloud – our best view

dropping down to the next valley

dropping down to the next valley

cloud and mist over the last pass

cloud and mist over the last pass

cloud and mist at the top our our last pass of the trek

cloud and mist at the top our our last pass of the trek

the path ahead -some major altitude loss to come

panorama – some major altitude loss coming up!

At the pass the wind had also picked up so we did not linger long before heading down to a more sheltered spot where we could have a quick lunch break. Then it was on the move again. We were losing major altitude as the rain picked up and at the next rest stop most put on their rain gear – the first time in the trip that it was really necessary.

I foolishly decided to hold off, however, with the rain pants and only slipped them on a half-hour later as my pants were getting wet and I was starting to  feel the chill. “Isn’t it a bit late, Peter?” someone asked. “Well, better late than never,” was my cliché reply and the rain pants did indeed stop the chill. By the time we got to the end the body heat had dried the pants.

 

rain for the last three hours of the trek

rain for the last three hours of the trek

above Laguna Liviñosa -

above Laguna Liviñosa – 4244 m asl

We came upon Laguna Liviñosa and I just had to get out the camera in the rain to capture the beguiling scene – the lake, the mist, the folds of the mountain slopes.  The trail would take us by the right hand side of the lake and then continue down the valley for another three kilometers.  By the time we reached the camp spot seen in the pix below we had lost yet another four hundred meters in altitude and were getting to see vegetation we hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks!

 

you almost expect hobbits to appear - aged buildings at our last campsite above Botijlaca

you almost expect hobbits to appear – aged buildings at our last campsite above Botijlaca

We camped on the grounds of what was once a working farm. It was now owned by someone who did not live here full time. Stone fences rimmed the perimeter and at least one building, the small one you see in the photo below (bottom right of image) was open.  Already there when we arrived were Lucretia (the cook) and her daughter and helper Patricia.  They had caught up to us before the second pass – and left us feeling humbled by their energy and long days of work and walking.  –  Now they were drying out their clothes.  Not yet there were the donkeys and llamas.

campesino compound - and our last campsite

campesino compound – and our last campsite

I found a dry spot by the fire burning in the open add-on on the shack above.  Piled to the side of the fire pit was the “firewood”, actually cow dung patties that brought back memories of the Khumbu valley above Namche Bazaar where the Sherpas make use of the yak droppings in the same way.

The journey's end - sitting next to a cow dung fire

The journey’s end – sitting next to a cow dung fire

Soon the rain had stopped and we waited for the arrival of the arrieros and llameros. I walked back up the valley a bit to get a more interesting angle from which to photograph their arrival.  To no great surprise, the donkeys were first to come down the path and they did so in their typically orderly fashion. At least, orderly until they came up to  the bridge over the small creek.They headed for the creek to the left of the bridge and scampered over.

fellow trekkers - a lull before the donkeys and llamas arrive

fellow trekkers – a lull before the donkeys and llamas arrive

the donkey train approaches our campsite

the donkey train approaches our campsite

the other half of the arriero team

one of the two muleteers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pix above are of the Aymara couple who were the arriero team with the ten donkeys.

the donkeys make their way to the end point

the donkeys make their way to the end point

I may have waited about twenty minutes for the llameros to arrive.  There was little to look at except for the mist hanging over the valley.  Then I heard whistles and shouts and they came walking through the mist and down the path in front of me. The llamas were doing a great job of walking mostly in a line with only one or two a bit off-track!

Look up valley for the llams - no sign at all!

Look up valley for the llamas – no sign at all!

the llamas emerge from the mist - at their own pace!

the llamas emerge from the mist – at their own pace!

the llamas nearing the campsite

the llamas approach

“El Largo” – el arriero

El Largo has his llamas walking smartly as they near the end

El Largo has his llamas walking smartly as they near the end

llama taking in the scene

llama taking in the scene

llamas being relieved of their baggage

llamas being relieved of their baggage

Meanwhile, the donkeys are grazing...

Meanwhile, the donkeys are grazing…

Once last time everyone pitched in and the tents got up in good time. For one last time the duffels got emptied and the sleeping bags and Thermarests set up.  It would be a much warmer evening at 3800 meters than it had been at the typical 4500 meters or so that we had been camping at.  There would be no worries at this campsite about the water bottle being frozen on waking up the next morning!

tents up at campsite above Botijlaca

tents up at campsite above Botijlaca

This dog from a  nearby farm came to visit our campsite a little later.  Curious and a bit wary, he watched as I got the camera lens down to his level for a shot or two.

farm dog checking things out

farm dog checking things out

another shot of a new friend

the Last Supper in our dining tent

the Last Supper in our dining tent

The dining tent that night saw a few toasts to the guides (Javier and Ricardo) and to a memorable – and yes, as the English say, “brilliant” –  trek down the Cordillera Real.  Someone pulled out a large bottle of liqueur that had been in his duffel since the trek’s start and it filled more of the small plastic cups. Cheers to two weeks well-spent!

Next Post: Day 14 – To The End of The Trek At Botijlaca/Return To La Paz

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2 Responses to Cordillera Real Trek Day 13: Chiar Khota To Campsite Above Botijlaca

  1. Ted says:

    A really well laid out record of your journey. It is a good reference for me, hoping to do a trek not much different from your route in November – might be a little more rain/snow. Great pictures and the maps are really useful. Congratulations on an excellent piece of work and reference. I wish I’d had the patience to have documented my trips around the world in this way……….!

    • true_north says:

      Ted, never too late to start documenting! Send me the link for your Cordillera Real walk when it’s done! There is not much out there and the more perspectives and trip accounts the better it will be be for future Cordillera Real trekkers.

      I was coming back home from various trips with 100’s of images and dumping them on my computer hard drive where they sat unseen while I started dreaming about and researching the next trip! Coming across the wordpress blog tool provided me with a container through which I could share the images with others!

      I do wish I had taken my Garmin Oregon 450 gps device instead of the Spot Connect – the second-by-second track would have been far more useful. You will have noticed that there are stretches where the Spot did not record a location for an hour or two!

      Happy trails – and good luck with the November weather!

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