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Yunga Cruz Trek - Hiking -

The least known of the three main Inca trails that run from the Cordillera Real to the Yungas region, the Yunga Cruz Trek is also the most challenging and arguably the most spectacular. You’ll pass through a variety of ecosystems and will have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife, from condors and hummingbirds to the elusive Andean spectacled bear.

The trek begins near the eastern edge of Mount Illimani, the omnipresent snow-capped mountain that looks over the city of La Paz, and ends in the village of Chulumani, 1,700 meters, in the semi-tropical Yungas. There are several different routes to the trek, but the most popular one starts in the village of Lambate, weaves down to the river, then ascends steeply to the mountain pass. Not long after you will enter the forest, which becomes extremely dense as you traverse deeper into the tropics.

The Yunga Cruz trek can be done in five days, but there is a shorter version which starts in the village of Chuñavi that can be done in three days. It’s possible to do the trek solo but you will need to carry plenty of water bottles as water is in short supply towards the bottom end of the trek. As always, good maps and a compass are also essential. Supplies are also limited along the trek. You’ll need a machete to clear through thick forest and come prepared with cold and hot weather clothing. There are a number of tour agencies in La Paz who can take you on the Yunga Cruz trek.

To get to the village of Lambate (or to Chuñavi) buses leave from Calle General Luis Lara, near the corner Venancio Burgoa, in the San Pedro zone of La Paz. You’ll need to get a bus heading to Pariguaya – they leave Monday to Saturday at 9 a.m. and fill up fast so get there early. The journey takes about six hours.

From Lambate, 3,600 meters, the trail descends about 1,000 meters to the river, continues along the right-hand bank and then climbs up to the settlement of Quircoma, where you can camp. From here, it’s a five hour uphill trek along the ridge, with striking views. You’ll finally reach a lake, Laguna Kasiri (there’s camping here if you need it), which you’ll pass on the right and head up over the pass at 4,200 meters. The trail then drops down and joins another pathway. You’ll then come to a junction – head north and follow the trail for two or three hours until you reach Cerro Yunga Cruz, where there is camping and water.

The trail continues, before it begins to descend into the forested Yungas, crossing five small streams on the way. You’ll need to fill up with water here, as there is little or no water from here until you reach Chulumani. This stretch is about two hours. From here the forest gets thicker and denser and you’ll need to battle your way through varying foliage. The track forks after about two hours – take the right hand track. There is a clearing shortly after where you can camp if needed.

From here, follow the trail down through the thick forest. You should come to some water after about two hours, if it is not dry. After this the vegetation is not so suffocating and about an hour further on, there is a pathway on the right that leads up to a camp site up on a ledge. The road you need to take, to Sikilini at 1,850 meters, is about 30 minutes after the campsite. This part of the trail is surrounded by coca, coffee and orange plantations. The trail then joins a dirt track that leads to Chulumani, taking about two hours.

Buses leave for La Paz on a regular basis throughout the day, or spend a few days exploring the delights of Chulumani.


26 Feb 2010

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