Cordillera Real Trek Day 14: To Botijlaca / Return To La Paz

Previous Post: Day 13 – Chiar Khota To Campsite 2 Km. Above Botijlaca

distance: 2 kilometers

Day 14 - distance and elevation

Day 14 – distance and elevation

Since our shuttle vehicle was not expected at Botijlaca until about 9:30, there was little reason to be getting up at the usual 6:20 a.m.  We would get an extra hour to luxuriate in the warmth of our bags! Had it been a sunny morning it would also have been the first time the sun would have been up and visible as we crawled out of our tents.

A Point of Clarification –  Chakapampa or Botijlaca?

Some  trek itineraries use the name Chakapampa to indicate the end point; others use the name Botijlaca.  Both are correct. The place we ended the trek is called Chaka Pampa (literally “the flat place with a bridge”).  It was there  that the electric company built the hydroelectric plant called “Botijlaca”. Andean Summits is one of the agencies that uses the name Botijlaca in its itineraries.

By 8:45 our duffels were packed and  breakfast done and the tents were coming down for one last time.  We stood around as the duffels were put into their protective bags. It was entertaining to see the llamas loaded yet again. And then it was an easy stroll down the valley to the hydro facilities and workers’ houses at Botijlaca.  It is just off the road which would take us up the Zongo Valley and back across the Altiplano to El Alto and La Paz.

loaded llamas ready for the day's haul

loaded llamas ready for the day’s haul

inside each bag a trekker's duffel

inside each bag a trekker’s duffel

Day 14 - a 45-minute walk to Botijlaca

Day 14 – a 45-minute walk to Botijlaca

the llama version of single file!

the llama version of single file!

llamas in reasonable order here as Botijlaca nears

llamas in reasonable order here as Botijlaca nears

our trekking party just before Botijlaca

our trekking party just before Chakapampa/Botijlaca

botijlaca-chaka pampa-satellite-shot

 

Botijlaca - end of the trek

Botijlaca – end of the trek

Botijlaca is a “company town” that was built to serve the workers at the hydro station. We saw few “locals” after we arrived; I saw a couple of blue-collar workers at a warehouse and two well-dressed guys with shiny new hard hats and clip boards who looked to be engineers.  Do not expect to stock up on food or other supplies at Botijlaca; there are no stores!

what a difference 1500 meters makes - the flowers of Botijlaca

what a difference 1500 meters makes – the flowers of Botijlaca

a farewell to our cook team - Lucretia and her daughter Pati

a farewell to our cook team – Lucretia and her daughter Patricia

the arrieros - the muleteers

the arrieros – the muleteers

Ray delivered a gracious thank-you speech to Lucretia and Patricia, the cook team.  They had walked the entire distance with us as well as taking care of all the food.  From 4:30 a.m. to 10 at night, they were hard at work in their cook tent. The two propane stoves were all they had to make it all happen.

Also acknowledged were the arrieros and llameros; they had taken over from another crew at Juri Khota.  Now they had to get the animals back to their village.  El Largo and his helper took all the animals – the donkeys and the llamas – and headed back up the valley we had just come down.  They would retrace their steps all the way back to the starting point.  Meanwhile, the two arrieros pictured above would catch a ride with us to El Alto.

looking up the river running through the communidad

looking up the river running through the communidad

the river tumbles down through Botijlaca

the river tumbles down through Botijlaca

Our mini-bus arrived shortly after we did and all of the gear was loaded on board.  The map below indicates the road (we would call it a gravel road in North America – it was not paved)  that passes by Botijlaca and eventually joins a paved road before  El Alto. (You’ll find Botijlaca to the north of Nevado Huayna Potosi.)

Cordillera Real - southern section with roads

Cordillera Real – southern section with roads

Huayna Potosi and the refugio and dam

Nevado Huayna Potosi, the Refugio Huayna Potosi, and Zongo Dam

The ride back to La Paz would provide us with some great views of Huayna Potosi. At 6088 meters it is one of the six peaks in the Cordillera Real that is 6000 + meters.  The six 6000 + peaks are as follows:

  1. Illimani  6438
  2. Jankuma 6427
  3. Illampu  6368
  4. Chearucu   6127
  5. Huayna Potosi  6088
  6. Chachakumani   6074
the Southeast face of Huayna Potosi as seen from the Refugio and the dam

the Southeast face of Huayna Potosi as seen from the Refugio and the dam

Closer examination of the above photo revealed some details I did not notice at first! Visible on the original 6 mb file are three high camps above the Refugio Huayna Potosi pictured above on the edge of the dam. There is a small high camp belonging to the agency which owns the Refugio; there is the Campo Alto Rocas (5130); finally, there is the Campo Argentino (5430). Before 2006 it was just a tent site but in that year a building was put up. There is also at least one  other high camp on the other side of the mountain.

Huayna Potosi Peaks and High Camps

Huayna Potosi Peaks and High Camps – click on image to enlarge

See below for a satellite shot taken of the area in May 2014 with an additional refugio – Casa Blanca – indicated. Of those who try, some 1000 people summit the mountain each year.  It is considered the easiest of Bolivia’s 6000 meter plus peaks to do; it is not as easy as some make it out to be. An additional statistic – the success rate – would probably make that clear. Is it 30%? 40%? It certainly is a popular trip for the La Paz agencies to sell – and to misrepresent!  See this tripadvisor thread (“Climbing Huayna Potosi”) for the views of some who bought the trip.

Huayna Potosi Satellite shot May 2014

Nevado Huayna Potosi from a more southerly angle

Nevado Huayna Potosi from a more southerly angle

Leaving the Huayna Potosi massif behind us, we kept on the road towards El Alto.  On the side of the road we passed by the following miners’ gravesite near Milluni.

miners' graveyard on the side of the road near Milluni

the miners' graveyard near Milluni

the miners’ graveyard near Milluni

Three hours after leaving Botijlaca, we were approaching our hotel- the El Rey Palace –  in downtown La Paz.  Most of the UK trekkers were heading back  the very next day so they were keen to get some last minute shopping done.  I had booked a couple of extra nights at the Hotel Rosario on Avenida Illampu in the “Gringo Ghetto” just up from the Iglesia de San Francisco. I’d head up there the next morning after saying goodbye to the Brits  departing for the airport and their flights back to London.

“So long, it’s been good to know you, but I’ve got to be movin’ along…” goes a Woody Guthrie song and it sums up the transitory nature of vacation friendships. From the emails I received in the days afterwards it sounds like most went back to deal with work that had piled up in their absence. Incentive, I guess, to start planning another vacation!

downtown La Paz El Rey Palace

downtown La Paz El Rey Palace

Next Post (still in development!):  Up and Down the Streets of La Paz

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