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Sorata – Sometimes it doesn’t go to plan

October 15, 2012



Things don’t always go right when you are overlanding and this is an excellent example of an 80km (each way) detour that just didn’t work out for us.

After leaving Copacabana and arriving on the mainland we decided that before hitting La Paz we would go to the small town of Sorata which is reputed as having some nice hiking.

The road to Sorata heads North from the PanAm and over a mountain pass before dropping down into a beautiful valley. Before we could access this road we had to pass through a military checkpoint (there had been some unrest in this area in recent years) but we got through this without to many problems.

The drive down to Sorata was beautiful and newly paved for almost the whole way. We were really looking forward to a couple of days here.

However when we arrived in the town the traffic was absolute chaos. The hub of the town – the central square, had been dug up meaning all traffic was funnelling down one side of the square which had parked cars and trucks on both sides. This meant one lane for everyone and trucks getting stuck forcing all the other vehicles to back up and try to get out of the way. In one word Chaos !

After 10 minutes we managed to force our way through the square – which had been where we thought we would stay – and out the other side of town.

Our backup camping spot was a small lodge called Altai Oasis which was accessed by a very narrow dirt road where tree branches brushed the sides of the truck all the way down – absolutely nowhere to turn around.

On arriving at Altai we found we could just about squeeze in – with difficulty as even cars needed to reverse down the driveway as the turn from the road was too sharp, but as (bad) luck would have it, the very friendly English-speaking owner told us that they had a large number of campers arriving the next morning to compete in a cycling race and therefore she was very sorry but we couldn’t stay! Arrrghhh !  Thankfully she told us that another 300 metres down the track the road split and that was our 1 and only opportunity to turn around.  We took her warning not to miss it very seriously as the idea of reversing 1 km back up the narrow windy road was not one we relished.   We knew about some caves further along the road and considered carrying on and spending the night there, but with darkness descending and not knowing what we would find up ahead we decided to turn back and head out of town in search of a ‘cosy’ lay-by for the night.  Getting out of town was actually much harder as by this time there was complete gridlock.  Eventually a lorry had to reverse the whole way back out of town to allow the rest of us through.

We ended up spending the night about 10km up the road back towards the PanAm on a ridge overlooking the Sorata valley and the neighbouring valley. In the morning we carried on to La Paz and gave up Sorata as a lost cause.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2012 6:59 pm

    What an inspiring journey you’re on! So sorry you didn’t get to stay in Sorata. I just spent a weekend there and it was lovely (although you probably made the right decision regarding the caves – the road on the way there was also pretty narrow at points where they were doing work).

  2. October 15, 2012 7:19 pm

    Such a bummer about Altai you guys! We spent almost a week there. Total crap luck! The town square still was a disaster though. Same in Coroico, where we are now. Possibly there’s some Bolivian initiative to improve town squares. Either way, not fun!

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