AmiGO

I went to Coroico yesterday to meet up with Grace who (to the best of my knowledge) was finishing cycling down Death Road. I got to the hostel we were supposed to meet at around 1:30 in the afternoon. She hadn’t checked in yet, which was a bit concerning, but it was still early.

I hiked up to the top of the hill that the city was nestled on and passed through a couple of clouds on the way. I had meant to do an easy 20-minute hike to the top of a “mirador,” but my path was blocked by a vicious dogfight. I thought maybe I could just sneak past the pack of ten plus dogs that were attacking each other. As soon as I got within 50 feet, the pack stopped what they were doing and turned towards me all at once.

Yeah, no.

I quickly walked back down the hill but turned around to see a couple of them were following me. They picked up speed and started growling at me.

At the bottom of the hill was a pizza delivery car. A young man got out of the car and motioned for me to run, seeing the pack now full speed chasing me.

“HURRY! Get in!”

I slammed the passenger side door just in time. The guy sped us back to the village and the dogs eventually gave up.

He explained to me that I was going the wrong way to see the Mirador and that the path I was taking hadn’t been used in a while due to robberies that occur in that area.

He kindly drove me to the correct trailhead, and I started again, this time making a friend. A dog, this time wagging his tail, followed me all the way to the top of my hike. I appropriately named him “Amigo.” Reaching the top, the sun had just begun to set and Amigo dutifully fell asleep at my feet like he knew how to be a proper pet. It was a peaceful moment, but Amigo and I eventually had to part ways when I went back to my hostel.

Grace was still not there, and now I was really beginning to worry. Panic set in when I got a text from Grace’s mom saying she had not heard from her daughter since we split up four days ago. It was 7:00pm and all of the tours should have been finished by now. I heard bells ring in the cathedral and decided now would be a good time to see my Hispanic church service.

The cathedral was absolutely beautiful and their chorus would have had me transfixed if I wasn’t so worried about my friend. I had to leave early so I could see if Grace had messaged me yet.

I had still not received a text from her. However, I did get one from her mother.

“Summer, Grace wound up in LaPaz. She crashed her bike and has a mild concussion despite a helmet. She said to say sorry, but she went there in case she has to go to the hospital.”

Of course. Just her luck. I felt a LOT better knowing where she was, but unfortunately, zip lining was off the list. I replaced this activity with a visit to La Senda Verde, a wildlife refuge for animals that have been trafficked on the black market, or otherwise abused.

I was greeted warmly at the fence by the owner. Immediately after passing the fence, I was encaged. The owner called it a “human cage” that was keeping me from the monkeys instead of vice versus. Monkeys of different kinds were prancing around the outside of my cage, to observe their new visitor.

During my tour, I was told that the refuge was home to 6,000 animals. While exotic birds, capybara, turtles, and caiman are all part of this home, the monkeys obviously steal the show.

They are the only ones not caged, and can actually go wherever they want. They don’t however, because they know they are safe and will get fed on the grounds.

La Senda Verde receives no government funding whatsoever. The animals are cared for solely by volunteers and the profits from the tours.

It all started when the couple who currently own the refuge rescued a baby capuchin from the hands of the black market. His mother was shot out from under him, and he had difficulty walking and was considered paralyzed. This baby is now the alpha capuchin thanks to this couple’s work. What the Senda Verde is doing is truly remarkable, and I’m glad I was able to support this cause. I am also supposed to tell you that they are currently looking for volunteers, and if you would like to be part of something wonderful, to go check out their website!

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