Thirdeyemom

Base Camp: Condoriri Valley

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open”. – Jawaharlal Nehru

Author’s note: This is a continuation of my post The Drive to Condoriri Valley. To read post click on link. 

We had reached our first test of adventure getting to the base camp at Condoriri Valley when we arrived at a collapsed bridge. Heavy rains that are common during the early summer season of November had washed it away and Javier, our guide, informed us that in rural Bolivia, infrastructure like roads and bridges are the responsibility of the village. Therefore, everyone in the neighboring community was required to spend the day repairing the bridge.  No one in the community was excluded from helping out, even the women and children had a role.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Thankfully we had a land rover that enabled us to drive off road otherwise we would have been stuck. The bridge is essential for the community as is the gravel road that is a five-hour walk from the base of Condoriri Valley to the main highway. For those without cars, it is a long commute to civilization either on foot or bicycle. I learned that rural Bolivians are hardy people.

As we drove further and further away from the main road, the dramatic scenery became even more breathtaking. We passed traditional rural homes made of mud bricks layered tightly one on top of the other, covered with thatched roofs, and the brownish-green rolling hills of the glacier moraine that rest below the mighty Andes.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Back on the gravel road headed toward Base Camp

Llamas and alpacas are the primary animals that live in the highlands as they are well-adapted to their environment. They thrive in this harsh environment mostly because they can eat almost anything including the yellow-spikey ichu, a grass native to this land that grows up the steep slopes of the mountains.

To get all our camping gear to the base of the Condoriri where we would be spending the next three nights, we had to employ the help of a muleteer. I told Javier that I was interested in seeing a traditional house up close so we stopped at the home of our muleteer for a tour.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

The home of our muleteer and family.

A traditional home is made up of three to four small buildings like seen above. Each house has a corral around it for animals, a central patio and several small buildings that contain a kitchen, a storage area and living quarters. Typically one or two families live together in a compound and they are entirely self-sufficient. They make their own clothing, grow their own food and raise llamas, alpacas, mules and sheep for their living. Even their savings are tied to their livestock.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

A thatched roof like this needs to be repaired every three years by adding an extra layer.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

A look inside the compound.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Making a blanket

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Beautiful handicraft

The homes have no electricity or running water, and the latrine is located outside. Yet despite being basic, they are sturdy and warm.

We thank them for the tour and head on our way to the end of the road where we will load up all our supplies on mules and be on our hike to the base camp. We realize that we had to hurry as the clouds were thickening and becoming laden with rain.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, BoliviaFinally we arrive at the end of the road. Our muleteer, Gregario and his wife and daughter would be arriving shortly with the mules that would carry all our belongings and supplies. Once the mules were loaded up, we would have about a two-hour hike to reach the base camp. Hopefully the weather would stay clear.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Unloading our stuff.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Gregario and the mules arrive

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Gregario, his wife and daughter.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Gregario and his wife are a team which is unusual for muleteers who mainly leave their wives at home.

Gregario and his wife are a team which is unusual for muleteers who mainly leave their wives at home.

Before we head out, it is time for our first lunch of the trip. Eugenia, our cook, prepares a delightful picnic for us. We even have a table and chairs!

Gregario and his wife are a team which is unusual for muleteers who mainly leave their wives at home.

Javier, our guide, smiling for the camera.

Gregario and his wife are a team which is unusual for muleteers who mainly leave their wives at home.

We also have plenty of local dogs that follow us along for free handouts.

After we finish our lunch, it is time to load up the mules. We have three small sleeping tents, one large dining room tent, propane gas, food, and other supplies. Thank goodness we have the mules to help out.

Packing up

 Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Setting off

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

A young woman coming back from checking on her grazing livestock.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

The livestock (alpacas, llamas, mules and sheep) graze a two hour walk away.

The life of a rural farmer and shepherd is not an easy one. Gregario and the others in his community easily spend up to four hours a day walking to check on their animals who prefer to graze at the foot of the Condoriri. Most do not have decent footwear and the woman all wear flat shoes like shown above without socks. When it rains, as it often does this time of year, they have no rain coat or gear and carry everything on their backs.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Eugenia, our cook who is from El Alto.

Spring time means babies!

Spring time means babies!

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

As we walk, it starts to lightly rain and the wind picks up.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

But it is lovely just the same.

Finally just as the weather is turning cold we reach Chiar Kota or “dark lake”, which is directly in front of our base camp. It is known for good fish.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

We notice that there is no one there except for us. During high season, there could be 100 tents camped out at near Chiar Kota. We are the only ones.  Soon we will discover why.

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia“Life is either a great adventure or nothing”. – Helen Keller

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

And here it is….our home at 15,500 feet, right below a glacier!

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

It was a beautiful place but one thing was for certain. It was going to be cold.

Stay tuned…

 

19 comments

  1. i just wonder, what ‘s kind of mountain behind you?
    is that ice mountain?
    but for sure one thing, that valley is beautiful and such a good place to camp
    I love it

  2. I’m curious – how many were in your party? Table, chairs, and a cook seems like an elaborate set-up to me, but I’ve never camped in this kind of setting.

    • Great question! This is probably my eighth organized hike and every single one has been different. FOr this trip, it was off season so it was just my dad, me, our guide and a cook. Since we were hours away from civilization and needed to eat a ton of calories due to excursion and the altitude, we needed a lot of supplies. Our cook had all the food for four days, a propane tank and all the equipment to make hot meals. We had a dining tent with plastic chairs and plastic table to eat at as it was about 15 degrees in the morning and very cold, rainy, windy at night. Plus there were storms so we needed somewhere safe. We also had hours of off time so needed someone to sit. Depending on the kind of hiking you do and where you are, the needs and gear changes but it was very good to have a table and chairs!

  3. Such an amazing adventure, Nicole. That looks like quite and entourage with you, and how lovely to have your own cook! I love the image of everyone lending a hand to fix that bridge. I think the Bolivians aren’t afraid of hard work. i noticed that when we were there.

    • Thanks Sylvia! Yes it was quite the adventure. The views were gorgeous but it was very very cold at night. Don’t know if I could camp like that again.

  4. Can you imagine being born into this environment and never having seen anything else, Nicole? There wouldn’t be many idle moments in the day, would there?

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