Coroico: A Mile High but also a Mile Lower

by - Thursday, December 13, 2012

 This is not Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
And we quickly learn it isn’t La Paz, either. What a difference a mile in altitude can make.
From the main plaza of Coroico to a narrow dirt road featuring hundred feet drops at the side, it is a distance of exactly two blocks, meaning you go from civilization to the jungle within the snap of a finger. Needless to say, this is not our choice, as this is the only road to take us to the Viejo Molino, the Old Mill, our hotel.
The hotel is nothing special – the rooms would not reach two star status in most western hotels, but it has two pluses that rapidly add to the sum of overall quality. Number one, a swimming pool that the kids will continue to use for hours on end, and a breathtaking view over the mountains that could only possibly be witnessed by the birds themselves.
Then there is the weather: again, what a difference a mile makes. Here the weather is actually hot, something you never experience completely with La Paz’s mild climate. Eventually, I will leave Coroico with a sunburn. The Viejo Molino looks like it was built in the middle of a jungle clearing. You can picture day laborers hacking away at the vegetation and elaborately clearing trees and bushes over two acres and voila…time to put a hotel down.
Unfortunately, I quickly become a buffet table for the insects in these parts. Bugs dig their entire heads into my skin, so that I look like a junkie inundated with track marks instead of insect bites. There are two other expat families with little kids sharing the pool with us, and we meet for dinner later in town.
Luckily, we are taken back into Coroico by taxi – I was nervous taking that mountainous dirt road the first time around where one false turn would wipe out my entire family. The problem is, the scruffy taxi driver is really taking this mountain road like a rally...and at dark, no less. I finally remind myself that he’s probably driven this road more often than he’s had a shave and relent somewhat.
Before dinner, we hang around the plaza a little, and all eyes are on our kids, who – right – are wearing Spiderman and Wolverine costumes. Some of the bigger kids simply need to walk up and touch these white kids, which they probably see as often as we see lunar eclipses in the west, small tourist town or not.
After dinner, the life in the jungle around the hotel comes to life. Insects celebrate mass matrimonial, including the wedding nights as an encore, and somewhere out there the birds will have a say in this impromptu concert. It’s nice falling asleep to the sounds of nature like that.
For the most part, I will remember standing at the floor to ceiling window of the dining room in the second floor and simply gazing out at the green mountains outside that seem to stretch out to eternity. I haven’t see pictures like this in a National Geographic, that’s how breathtaking it all seems.
On our way back home, all is well until we get to La Paz, which is when Axl finally remembers his motion sickness gene and barfs all over himself in the backseat.
I will be returning to Coroico shortly for an out-of-town hash, including a 4,900 m run in La Cumbre. I am taking an oxygen tank with me and paper and pen. The second time around will make for an interesting visit.

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