So I have spent the last few days in Coroico, a small jungle town northeast of La Paz. It´s a very nice, quiet town with cobblestoned streets and perched up on a plateau always providing views of the surrounding mountains…that is, unless it is cloudy or foggy. Since it is the beginning of rainy season, it is usually cloudy or foggy. Of the 2 full days I have been here, I think it has rained a fourth of that. Luckily, I had nice weather yesterday so I took the chance to go hiking.
The trail I took wrapped it´s way around mountains with great views of the valley and other mountains behind. It is part of area they called the Yungas, which is part of the jungle. The vegetation and different types of animals, birds, and butterflies make it an interesting place. When I was walking, I saw an animal through some vegetation the size of a small dog. I watched it for a while trying to figure out what it was. After some time, I thought it was a small pig. Then finally I saw the whole thing, and I now have no idea what it was. It honestly looked like a large squirrel, about 4 or 5 times bigger than a normal squirrel. Unfortunately, I don´t know how to explain it any better and probably won´t figure out what it was.
Also along the trail were coca plantations. Coca is one of Bolivia´s main industries, if not the biggest industry. The main use of this, unfortunately, is the production of cocaine. The US, a few years back, influenced the Bolivian government to destroy a large majority of the plant. I believe the US refused to give any financial help to the country if they didn´t. The problem with this is that it leaves an impoverished country even worse off than before. The other problem is that coca production just moved to other countries in South America, meaning there was no change in the supply of cocaine in the world.
It was interesting to see the cocaine fields and the people working them. Coca leaves are also very popular in Peru, and for locals, it is used to either chew or use for herbal tea. You can buy coca leaves in many markets in Bolivia and is legal. Coca has many great benefits, including the battle with altitude sickness so it is always recommended for travelers entering high altitude areas. However, walking through these fields, I can´t help but think the problems these little leaves also cause. All of the people who have died through drug wars. But it´s not the leaves who are killing people, it´s people killing people.
Along the route, I walked through a few towns which were very interesting. There were many banana trees. I also tried my first mango that I had bought in a market. Never had I had a fresh mango, but it was great. Very juicy, and I know now why they make so much mango juice!
Along the trail were a few beautiful waterfalls as well, the last one being Las Cascadas, a popular waterfall in the area. I got some pictures of the waterfall, and then, as what has happened other times in South America, I was asked to be in a picture with other travelers who are from Bolivia. For some reason, they really want a picture with a gringo and can´t help but ask. I always accept, and then ask for a picture with them with my camera as well.
A few nights ago, I went to a pub here just to have a beer, and I met a few guys from the Netherlands. They have a pretty nice trip that they are taking. They flew to Alaska, each of them bought a motorcycle, and they are riding it all the way to the bottom tip of South America. They have been traveling for 5 months now and have about a month left. Pretty cool trip!
Today, I am taking a 15 hour bus ride north to Rurrembaque. It will be a brutal ride, but will be an interesting place. I will take a 3 or 4 day tour of the Pampas which is known for it´s great wildlife sights. I am extremely excited for this! I won´t have internet for several days, so unfortunately I won´t be able to talk or communicate to everyone until I am done with the tour. I will keep you updated as soon as I can!