Camino del Inca (Bolivia )

After speaking to tourist information and luckily obtaining a detailed map of several hikes around La Paz, we had our hearts set on walking ‘La Takesi trail’ for two days independently. Our first challenge was finding out how to get to the start. The very helpful lady at tourist info, advised us which local bus and where to get the bus from. She also recommended going with a guide (which we decided to ignore).

Day 1

We got up reasonably early to catch the bus to Palca (which leaves before 9am). This however turned out to be a little more difficult than we had anticipated. The buses did indeed leave from the roundabout described but the locals waiting told us it was a few blocks north. This confused us, therefore after hanging around for 30 odd minutes, we decided to catch a taxi (costing 200 bolivianos). The ride took 2hrs initially on paved roads then turning into dirt track with steep climbs. Arriving at Palca, we asked out driver to take us a little further to Choquekhota. Which he kindly agreed for a small additional fee.

Arriving safely at Choquekhota (3,850metres) we quickly found the trail and were on our way. We walked past little hamlets, passed several llamas and followed herds of sheep.

Choquekhota village
The trail was substantially steep, that at one point a local Bolivian lady passed us carryIng what looked like a weeks shopping on her back and left us standing breathless.

Vanessa and local member of team steamroller
Excuse me Llamas
The trail followed the river for several kilometres, reaching a small river crossing, we came to a crossroad, with one track climbing up and not so defined and the other carrying on along the river. Luckily for us ‘’ showed the path ascending. We therefore started the slow and steady climb up to the pass at 4,632 metres shortly before Abra Takesi.

Start of the steep ascent
Now which way to go?

The trail was varied with Inca stones, rubble and with several switch backs. Our backpacks suddenly became heavier then we remembered. We stopped to grab some air every 50 steps. Reaching the top the clouds started rolling in and light snow began to fall. It was incredibly cold but the views made up for the lack of air and freezing conditions. We quickly snapped a few pictures and then started our descent towards Abra Takasi (a tiny hamlet without, it appeared, residents).

4632 metres high and feeling it!
Once at Abri Takesi, we de decided to keep on descending as, although we were getting hungry, it was too cold to rest. After another half hour we came across a lake (unnamed) the sun came out and it was just the perfect spot for lunch.

Back down the otherside

The Inca trail carried on descending and evidently is also a great route for rain water from the mountains to pass through. Let’s just say that the rocks became treacherous and our feet slightly damp. The valley below was incredible; green lush fields with llamas and horses. The mist rolling in and climbing up the mountain side gave the scenery an extra edge of adventure.

The path was now easy to follow, we kept descending for a further 2 hours until we reached the small but perfectly formed hamlet of ‘ Takesi’. An indigenous lady spotted us from a distance and greeted us, asking us if we needed to camp. We followed her to her house and she showed us her very lush green garden where we could pitch our tent, the outside toilets and sink. Plus she said we could eat inside and cook too. A prefect location after a hard but thoroughly enjoyable day. We ate and watched llamas gather, then had a peaceful nights sleep.

Day 2

Waking up early to a chilly but incredible view got us both excited for what lay ahead for the day.

As we descended we were quickly reminded that a slow but steady pace was needed due to the rocks being slippery. The humidity in the air started to pick up and the vegetation ever greener, turning into more of a jungle the further we descended.

We carried on following the river and reached a slight junction. The clearer path of the two ascended but we were both sure that the trail was supposed to descend. We therefore chose the less obvious route. After 10 minutes the path became overgrown and very narrow. We quickly realised that we had made the wrong choice and re-traced our steps back to the crossing. Once on the more obvious path, we both laughed at how obvious it actually was. Anyway at least we were back on track.

We ascended and descended several times into denser jungle. Our last climb ascended for some time before reaching a little hamlet called Kacapi with a very excited dog. We decided not to stop as it had started to drizzle a little.

We carried on descending on the other side if the mountain range and stopped for lunch at Chojlla. This was idilic as there were picnic tables overlooking the valley in front of a refugio and someone’s house. We ate and enjoyed the spectacular views when the mist lifted.

Once fed, we carried on deeper into the jungle, the weather continued to drizzle making the descent on rocky paths even more dangerous. We came to a huge roaring river with a makeshift bridge, made out of three logs. Jon quickly skipped across. Whilst Vanessa assessed the situation and decided that she didn’t trust her own balancing skills and asked Jon to come back and hold her hand.

Once safely over, we continued on the path. By now we had been walking for 6 hours, with the last few being a little damp. This meant that our shoes and socks were wet, whichunfortunately increased the likelyhood of blisters. We followed the river on the right side for several kilometres before reaching a sign stating that the bridge ahead was unsafe to cross and that a short diversion on the left was to be taken to cross over. Fortunately for us our Spanish reading was good enough to understand otherwise who knows what would have happened. We joined up pretty quickly with the main path, again crossing various other safer bridges.

Reaching ‘Campermento Minero Chojllo’ we walked passed a rather impressive hydroelectric pipe rising as far as the eye could see.

We kept going, passing some miners panning for silver and other minerals. We knew that we had finished the official trek but still had 6km on dirt road to reach Yanacachi, hoping to catch the 4pm mini bus back to La Paz. We quickened our pace but struggled as our wet feet had unfortunately developed some annoying blisters. We tried sticking our thumb out to a few passing cars but no joy. We had 30 minutes left until the bus left and we weren’t feeling hopeful of making the deadline.
Reaching Yacacachi at 4.15pm we had resigned ourselves to staying the night and catching the bus in the morning. Then a mini bus drove slowly passed us, we saw La Paz written on the outside and waved excitedly. The bus driver pointed ahead, where a few other people were waiting. Jon ran ahead hoping to snap up two bus tickets to no avail, as we were told that the bus was full and that we would have to catch one tomorrow. We booked the early 5am bus (which was a great decision, as it was still dark and the roads were narrow, on cliff sides with sheer drops) and booked into a hostel for the night.
Footnote: The minibus ride the following day was in dark for the first part, which was just as well (certainly from Vanessa’s point of view) as it ascended the opposite side of the same valley where the infamous ‘death road’ can be found. The sheer drops were equally intimidating on our side.