Monday 27 April 2009

Villa Maria Expedition Update part 2

Sunday was a fairly early start for a day of ice climbing. Feelings were mixed about it in the group, many people apprehensive about what was to come. When we arrived we were immediately hit by the altitude, and so the idea of an hour walking uphill to get to the start wasn´t appreciated. We made it to the glacier however, and after a quick lunch of the old favourite chicken milanesa we were shown the technique of how to scale the ice. Most of us then began to attempt to climb to the top of the 10m high wall of ice, but Vicky, Lucy, Laura and Debbie went for a small glacier walk. Sarah, Bart, Fred and Tom made it right to the top, but everyone put in good efforts. Sarah, Alex, Sophie and Tom then tried the glacier walk whilst Vicky also succeeded in reaching the top. We headed back to La Paz with various headaches and coughing filling the bus for the journey back. That evening many of us took early nights in preparation for the mountain biking the next day.

Not everyone fancied taking on the worlds most dangerous road, some of the group fancied a day of rest (and shopping!) in La Paz which was surprisingly successful. Meanwhile, Alex, Fred, Bart, Sarah, Debbie, Emma and Tom headed off with the leaders to the start of the mountain biking, where our Swedish guide gave us a very frank briefing on what to expect. In order to appease the Bolivian deities we had a sip of revolting alcohol before starting our descent, a relatively easy stretch of tarmac to get used to the bikes. Tom still managed to fall in embarrasing fashion however on a gravelly bit. The boys tried to take on the uphill, Bart and Fred conceding defeat whilst Tom tried to continue, but he was forced to stop by Rob. After a snack we were given an even more terrifying talk by the guide, before we set off, the 400m drop a matter of feet away. Further falls (but fortunately not too serious) were incurred by Fred (possibly more retarded than Tom´s), Sarah and Debbie. We arrived at the bottom a little disappointed it had ended, but delighted to have made it all in one piece. After returning we order the biggest pizza any of us had ever seen, a worthy reward after a entertaining day.

The next day was spent preparing for the Choro trail. Wednesday morning we got the bus up to the start - well, not exactly the start, we had to walk up for an hour through the snow to actually get to the top, and moods were not good! We started our descent quickly, trying to get out of the snow. The checkpoint brought about lunch, but Rob told us that thanks to the bus driver we were well behind schedule and had something of a race to the campsite. Driven on by the prospect of rest and not wanting to walk in the dark we managed to arrive at the campsite at around 5pm, well before sunset to everyone´s relief. The second day we set off early, and were making what we thought was good progress, until Charlie boy sustained a bad injury to his knee. We therefore slowed our pace after lunch, but we did not mind as Rob told us we were only 2 hours from camp. Unfortunately he was mistaken. We were about 4 hours from camp. This soured moods further, particularly at the back where we did not know what was going on. The sight of the campsite was a massive relief after we had been walking for almost 8 hours. Even better there were chips! The third day was blissfully short in comparison to the first two. We had lunch at the top of the toughest slope of the trail, disgustingly sweaty, but in good spirits, although Charlie girl was also now carrying a knee injury. We arrived surprisingly early at the Japanese man´s campsite, and had our tents up just after 2pm. The rest of the day was relaxing in the campsite, some of us even treating ourselves to beer. A night filled with a mild fear of being trampled by horses followed, before the final day of the trail. This passed quickly, although Anya and Debbie seemed keen to continue the walk, walking straight past the rest of us while we tried to sort out buses. The journey to Coroico was eventful. The first minibus almost had a head on collision with a car, while the driver also risked taking out several children in his haste to get to Coroico and back. Meanwhile in the other driver refused to take the other group up to the hostal, and left them in the square after a 10 minute argument with El Dark Horse, where the driver tried to secure a camera as payment. We were glad to get into the hostal and hit the sauna, our second trek at an end.

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