For more detailed info. go to www.coroi.co.cc
Besides being a pretty village in a magnificent forest environment, Charobamba deserves a visit from people interested in modern history. In the late 1930s there would have been an exodus of Jews from Nazi-Germany, if not for the near impossibility for them to get a visa anywhere in the world. One of the few countries that did accept Jewish immigrants was Bolivia, on condition that they would occupy themselves as farmers. Thus a small community was founded near Coroico, a booming territory in those days, as the road from La Paz to the Yungas had recently been opened (made by Paraguayan prisoners of war, after the disastrous Chaco War). Most families left shortly after the end of the world war, but one of them stayed. One of their children now owns the local El Jiri Ecolodge, a beautiful forest hotel, and an excellent base for hiking in the forest. In the village the big Administration House reminds of the days of the colony, as well as the mule path on the other side of the valley, carved in those days to export their products.
Ironically, Nazi leader Klaus Barbie lived for years at less than 50 kilometres from Charobamba after fleeing Germany. Much less then extraditing him, Bolivian governments used his skills from time to time to solve internal conflicts.
THE MONTAÑA FAMILY
The Montaña family grows organic coffee, sold in the Special Coffee circuit, which guarantees they get a good price for their produce. They organise a tour on their farm in Incapampa, in which they explain the whole process of growing, yielding and processing the coffee. Obviously, you end with a tasting session.
The tour takes about an hour and includes a cup of coffee.
How to visit the Montaña family
You can arrange a visit with a guide or call directly to tel. 719 760 57. Incapampa is at about an hours walk or a 20 minutes taxi ride from Coroico. Take the road to Carmen Pampa (passing the hospital), and after about half an hour you take the first road to the right. Incapampa is the hamlet at the third road to the right. Arrange for them to wait for you on the street, or ask any local where they live.
Tocaña is the biggest Afro-Bolivian community of the country, famous for being the origin of the Saya music and dance. The Africans arrived in the Yungas as slaves, working on the coca plantations, after barely surviving in the silver mines of chilling Potosi. Approximately 8 million slaves were “imported”, leaving only about 50 000 Bolivians of African descent. The people of Tocaña used to work in the Hacienda of Mururata, a neighbouring village, until as part of the 1952 revultion they revolted and founded their own village under the leadership of black king Bonaficius I. Nowadays, his brother is king Bonaficius II. Tocaña is a pretty village with houses scattered amongst the agricultural forest. Besides being a pretty village with black inhabitants, it’s especially interesting to visit when there is a party. The villagers wear white clothes with colourful details, and sing and dance to the music like you would expect in a similar village in Senegal. When there is a festival in Coroico, you can count on them to dance there too. You can walk, cycle or take a taxi.
THE PEROLANI WATERFALL
Perolani is a mysterious waterfall in the valley behind Tocaña. From far, it is impossible to see the base of the fall. It is said that it is impossible to go there, and that it would be foolish, because the devil lives there. Legend has it that a small caravan of mules was lost at the bottom of the fall, taking the life of all the people and animals involved. The mules were apparently carrying bags of gold. A true legend is that one day the government decided to find out if there really was gold by sending a helicopter. Some mandatory volunteer was to get down the chopper via a cable. When the chopper was in position, a weird wind threw it out of position. The helicopter almost crashed, and the poor volunteer didn’t survive.
People from Tocaña who got pretty near told they had to abort the mission when all of a sudden dozens of snakes appeared out of the jungle.
Another true story is that some ex military experts in jungle treks tried to get to the falls, but had to abort and go back via the river. Jumping down small falls, they had no way of knowing if the pool at the bottom was deep enough to break their fall.
Believe it or not, you have to be careful in a place where the mountain looks like the face of Darth Vader.
The waterfall can be seen from the road to Mururata. A sidetrack on the road from Polo Polo to Tocaña leads to the old Tocaña soccer field, from where you can try to get closer. You can also get to the soccer field from Tocaña itself. Ask locals for directions. If you do an expedition, it’s best to go with a guide and to leave very early.
PUENTE ARMAS WATERFALLS
Puente Armas is the metal bridge which used to cross the river in Choro. That doesn’t sound too interesting; however, the bridge gave its name to the whole area, which features various huge waterfalls in a spectacular forested canyon.
The waterfall that’s easiest to reach is THE RIO CAJÓN WATERFALL, at just 100 meters from the main road. Isolated from the noise by a small canyon, you reach a big but chilly lagoon, with constant wind from the powerful waterfall. Excellent for a swim, but it might be advisable to take an inner tube if you want to get right under the falling water. As the water is pretty cold, it’s best to go on sunny days, and count on being there before 2 pm.
The waterfall can be reached by taking any transport in the direction of Caranavi. After about two hours you’ll cross a tunnel (the only one on the road). Sit tight for ten more minutes and you’re there.
About an hour before arriving at the Cajón waterfall, you’ll see a couple of very high waterfalls at the other side of the canyon. These can be visited, but only during the dry season, and it is highly recommended to go with a guide.