Sorata – My Last Trip in Bolivia (For Now!)

panoramic view
This weekend I went to the town of Sorata, which has a population of 2,500 and is located at 2,670m in the Yungas region of Bolivia. I went with two friends to try to fit in a bit of warm weather and sunshine before heading back to Canada, where I won’t experience such things for at least 4-5 months! Sorata is a lovely little town nestled in a valley below Mt. Illampu, which is one of Bolivia’s highest peaks, at 6,430m, giving the town an absolutely beautiful setting.

We left early Saturday morning on a mini-bus, which was an adventure in itself! When we left, the bus was full – in other words, all the seats were full. But that didn’t stop the driver from picking up more people! One woman sat in front of the first row of passengers, which is pretty normal. Then a man got on and was standing by the door (picture a vehicle something along the lines of a van), half-bent over another woman, who had obviously paid for her seat and was now being completely squished by this man. Well, the extra woman and extra man got off at some point, to be replaced by two men on the roof and a family of 7 inside the bus!! I’m really not sure how they managed to fit. The road was also very curvy and I kept expecting to see a body flying off the bus at some point! Luckily that didn’t happen. It’s just not the same as riding a Greyhound!

Altai OasisWe arrived in Sorata at lunchtime, and walked to the hotel. We were staying at Altai Oasis, which is a hotel nestled into the mountainside near the river about a 20 minute walk outside of the town. The hotel was lovely. It had beautiful gardens, hammocks and a restaurant with really good food (more on that later!). There are little buildings scattered around the property where the rooms are, and if you are going to be there for a while you can rent a cabin. I was quite impressed. The weather was lovely too – nice and warm and the only rain we had was at night.

Lunch proved to be another adventure. We were told by the hotel that the restaurant is open between 8:30am and noon and then 3pm and 8:30pm. This meant we needed to find somewhere else to eat lunch. Luckily we had seen a sign on the road that said there was a café 100m further down. Perfect! I looked it up in my Lonely Planet and the description was mouth watering. So off we went on search of the café…..100m down the road we saw nothing, so we kept going. We could see a little village a little ways down the road, so we continued, assuming the café would be there. Once through the village, without having seen any sign of a café, we asked a taxi that was passing by and he said it was back the way we came. Not sure how we could have missed it, we turned around and walked all the way back to the hotel, without seeing a café. Again, we asked a passerby, who politely informed us that it was in that white house next to where we were, but that it was closed at this time of year. So much for that idea! Luckily, upon arrival back at the hotel, they did serve us lunch even though it was 2pm.

After lunch we relaxed in the hammocks, and then headed into town to see what there was to see, which wasn’t much! The plaza in the centre of the town is lovely, with huge palm trees and gardens. We sat there for a while, then went in search of a restaurant which was written up in my trusty Lonely Planet as being really good. We found the building and it was even open, but seemed to only be a hostel. After asking where the restaurant was, we were told that it wasn’t open in the off-season. Who knew?! (Note to LP – update your book!!). So we found another place to eat, which had a huge menu and approximately 1/3 of the items available (it’s the off-season you see!). Dinner was quite good, although the sangria left a little to be desired (who puts banana liquor in Sangria??). After dinner we bought some supplies (beer) and went back to the hotel to build a campfire. The campfire was a semi-success – there were flames … however they weren’t sustained for very long at any one time! But it was fun.

Mt. IllampuSunday we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Did I mention the restaurant is on the deck looking out over the valley and up to Mt. Illampu?? Quite impressive! The birds were chirping and the humming birds were zipping around feeding at the flowers in the trees. After breakfast we started the next adventure … called waiting for a taxi. We wanted to go the Gruta, which is a cave nearby. You can walk there in 3 hours, but we didn’t have time, so we got the hotel to call a taxi. And then we waited. And waited. And had the hotel call the taxi again. And then waited. And waited. And then the hotel told us they had called a different taxi and that it was on its way. And then we waited some more. And at 11am (which was our cut-off time to go see the cave due to needing to get back to La Paz), a taxi showed up. We only waited for an hour and a half. It was a bit frustrating, but apparently there was a market on in the town and well, they were busy. However, the waiting took place in the warm sun so it wasn’t so bad.

We made our way to the cave in the taxi and saw some stunning views of the valley. The cave itself was pretty cool too. It was a large cave and there was a small lake inside. You could hear the bats, but we didn’t see any flying around. Unfortunately, my photos of the cave didn’t really turn out. After the cave we made our way back to the hotel for a delicious lunch and then headed into town to catch a minibus back to La Paz. The ride back wasn’t as action-packed as the ride to Sorata. This will be my last Bolivian trip for a while and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it was the off-season! It was great to get out of the city and relax in the sunshine one last time.

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Posted in bolivia | travel Submitted by Meg on Tue, 2007-12-11 11:27

Off-season

Submitted by kevin@haggaret.com on Tue, 2007-12-11 13:04.

When does the off-season start and end? We ran into a bit of that sort of trouble when we were traveling around NZ. Oh well.

I found this funny, "...went back to the hotel to build a campfire." You don't read that very often. Did you build the campfire between the two beds or was it in the bathroom? ;)

Looking forward to seeing you again when you return.

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the photos will clarify

Submitted by Meg on Tue, 2007-12-11 15:39.

The hotel, as I call it, was a bunch of small buildings around the property. There was also camping available ... as you can see in the photos it was more like staying at a lodge in a cabin than in a hotel!

Looking forward to seeing you guys as well!

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