Student Reflections: Bryan Rayo - Sorata

On December fourth our little group left La Paz for greener pastures in the little town of Sorata. We had been in La Paz for the last few days and needed to get out of the cosmopolitan atmosphere. On our way to Sorata our group had to pass through El Alto, which is the poorest section of La Paz, which is located in the higher elevations. When our group passed through El Alto we witnessed a protest by the local people. The protest was over water rights and who should have control over it, the government or the locals. Besides the protest there El Alto could have passed for La Paz.

We finally got through El Alto and started on our way to Sorata. This was nice because the road was paved, at least some of the way. After the road to Coroico I did not want to see another dirt road going up or down a mountainside for some time. Little did I know that half of the trip to Sorata would be down a road a little better then the one that took us to Coroico. I think that our bus driver liked to hear us scream because he would do some crazy things, at least crazy to us United States drivers, to get a rise out of us. Needless to say, we all got to Sorata without any real complications.

Sorata was a quaint town, like the others that we had been to previously. It seemed that South American towns all had central squares where the people would mill about. It was strange to see for me because there is really nothing like this in the United States. We traveled around Sorata for about a half an hour trying to find a good hotel that would please everyone. We finally settled down in the Hostal Sorata. This was probably one of the nicer places that we had stayed in.

The first day in Sorata went off without a hitch. We really did not do too much the first day but look around the town and got something to eat. The second day was a little better for research. Early in the morning was some heavy rain so the group had some time to work on some soil samples that had been taken at previous sites. Once the day cleared up we got onto a truck to go out looking for some violets and some algae. We went down to a river to try to get some sampling done, but it was cut short because the driver had to be back in Sorata for some previous commitment.

The third day was the best day spent in Sorata. For it was this day that the group was going on an eight hour hiking trip up one of the local mountains. The reason for this trip was to look for higher elevation violet specimens and algae that lived in mountain areas. This hike was simply amazing. The walk up took an incredible amount of time. The view that was witnessed by all was well worth all of the walking. During the ascent the group got considerably smaller, we lost people almost the whole way up. Finally reaching the pinnacle, Harvey gave us weary travelers some time to catch out breath. It was on the way down that the group found some of Harvey's violets that we had been searching for. Needless to say, Harvey was ecstatic about finding the violets. After sampling these mountain violets our merry band of travelers began their descent. Going down went quite a bit faster than going up, who would have figured? Our weary group finally reached Sorata, which was probably one of the happiest moments on the trip so far.

Our fourth day could not hold a candle to the third day. Really nothing could after hiking up a mountain. We rented a truck to take us up into the mountains once again. The truck was nicer to go up in rather than walking this time. Once up in the mountain our group broke itself into two different groups, the stream samplers and the ecology samplers. Much sampling occurred while stopped at the mountain pass. We all got back into the truck when the sampling was done to head back down. We stopped once again on our way down to do some more sampling, once again breaking into two groups. After sampling this time, we jumped into the truck so we could get back to Sorata in a timely manner. It rained most of this trip up and down the mountain, but luckily the truck driver had a tarp that would fit over the bed of the truck, which would keep us botanists dry.

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