Country Bolivia | Dates June 12-14 | Accommodation Hotel Bella Vista
Coroico is only about 33 miles from La Paz, but has an entirely different (tropical) climate. After freezing for weeks, we decided to take a break in the heat and sun. Naturally, when we arrived it began down pouring and did not exceed 60 (generally is 78+ and sunny).
Minibus to Coroico
We left La Paz when our minibus (van in questionable condition with additional folding seats, 20bs) finally filled and began the harrowing journey. The ride used to be on the world’s most dangerous road, Death Road or Yungas Road, which is now closed and only visited by tourists on bikes. The road we took still seemed quite dangerous, however, as it included many crazy winding turns and twists bumping mere inches from the side of the mountain. We periodically passed other vehicles at a high speed on blind curves, and others came 2-wide straight towards us in the wrong lane. It was better not to look, really.
We began in a high altitude with snow at over 4,500 feet, then descended into a lush tropical climate with rain, then into a valley shrouded in clouds. Very extreme climate shifts for the short journey. Political graffiti followed us throughout the drive, just as in the city, but on rocks this time. While jammed into the minibus, sitting on a fold-out metal seat that was not a seat, a lady’s head keeps banging into the window hard while she was asleep leaving a greasy mark on the window. I thought she legitimately got a concussion, but she never work up. Meanwhile, the lady in back of me repeatedly prodded me with a small metal chair she was holding.
While most people come to Coroico to relax and hang by the pool, we did explore the town a bit. Also the weather prohibited swimming so we had little else to do. We were dropped off on the side of the small plaza downtown, where we walked around a while looking for food. For some reason a lot of places were closed. In the end we chose a tourist spot, starving and out of options, which was not very good. Sarah had salchipapas (hot dog and fries chopped up). I forget the name.
Buying Wine from a Convent
We read online you could buy cookies and wine from a convent. Although it seemed very unCONVENTional, we decided to give it a try. We found ourselves outside Madres Clarisas, a white building with a red door and sign to “ring bell.” We stood in the rain waiting, and eventually someone answered and beckoned us inside leaving us alone in a hall. Finally, a nun opened a small square wood window. My sister asked about the cookies – and wine – and we bought both, all for a sum of less than 4 USD. We drank the wine in our room. It was sick but also delicious.
The streets of Coroico are set on the hill, of course, and were muddy with the rain. Lined with mini markets and shops, they sold standard snacks and fare, plastic toys, DVDs sold in very think sleeves. Scary stray dogs abounded, jumping up on my legs from time to time. The town boasts a tropical red bird as its logo, although we never actually saw this bird in action while there. Many shops sell street chicken and papa fritas for 5BS. It was misty while we were there; I presume the vibe is better with sun.
Relaxing in a Cloud in Coroico
A lot of our time was spent relaxing, enjoying the view when we could see it, and hanging in our hotel watching the mountain appear and disappear from within the cloud. The first night we heard weird and loud noises nonstop. I joked it was a racquetball game, and later we found out it was not a joke! There was a racquetball court in the basement of our hotel (which was awesome) for some reason. At breakfast a greedy guest asked for more bread not once but twice; the second time he was rejected.
On our last day, my sister and I split up, and I stayed with our friends from the salt flats tour. We had to wait all day for the night bus to Rurrenabaque (the jungle), so we hung out drinking and using wi-fi at a local spot in Coroico, Carla’s, which had top #1 ratings across the web (Tripadvisor, lonely planet, blogs). It was mediocre at best; I don’t understand the hype. It was all foreign travelers and wildly overpriced for so-so food; I combated this by buying one glass of wine and continually refilling my glass with the leftover convent wine under the table all day.