The Santa Cruz trek is, literally, breathtaking. With the highest point at 4,750m, the altitude left me a little breathless and very slow as I struggled uphill. Going downhill was fine, but the direction we trekked in (starting in Cashapampa) meant there was only one section that wasn’t an incline. I was constantly taking layers off and then putting them back on as the temperature fluctuated. At night I alternated between sleeping like a log and shivering wakefulness. It was all totally worth it though.
We organized a two day trek to the Valley of the Condors, just outside of Tarija, with Educación y Futuro (a locally-run non-profit organization). There are estimated to be about 200 condors living in the valley – 7% of the world’s population, we were proudly told.
On the trek itself, the diversity of landscape and weather was totally unexpected (with El Choro trek I knew we’d be passing through different climatic zones since we were dropping a few thousand metres). We went from Wild West-like scrub to mist-shrouded jungle to rock-strewn post-apocalyptic wasteland all in one day. The next morning we climbed up to a rock plateau with amazing views while condors glided by, before descending through a bamboo forest back to the scrubland. It was one of the most amazing times I’ve had.
Setting off towards the hills, which rise to 3,000m above sea level.
Incan rock paintings.
Spotting our first condor (even our guides were excited).
A cave, where we didn’t spend the night.
The outcrop where we did spend the night – it rained a bit and was very windy, but there was a wonderful view the next morning.
Educacíon y Futuro – visit their website valledeloscondores.com or their shop, Ecosol, on Plaza Sucre in Tarija.
Cost: 2,603 Bolivianos for three people, including guide, equipment and food. Price is lower with more people.