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 where we were supposed to meet. It was around 1:30 in the afternoon. She hadn’t checked in yet, which was a bit concerning, but it was still early.

I hiked 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” (vista point), 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.

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 my endeavor again. A dog, this time wagging his tail, followed me all the way to the top of my hike. I appropriately named him “Amigo.” The sun had just begun to set as I made it to the top and Amigo dutifully fell asleep at my feet. 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 and pray that Grace was okay.

The cathedral was absolutely beautiful, and their choir 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 sadly our plans to zipline had been thwarted. I left Coroico the next day. On the way back, I decided to visit La Senda Verde, a wildlife refuge for animals that have been trafficked on the black market.

I was greeted warmly at the gate by the owner. After passing through the gate, I looked up and noticed the cage around me. The owner called it a “human cage” that was keeping me from the monkeys instead of vice versus. They had the whole jungle to roam and explore. 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.

The monkeys are the only animals not caged. They don’t roam too far however, because they know where they are safe and where their food comes from.

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

The refuge started when a couple rescued a baby capuchin from 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 always looking for volunteers, and if you would like to be part of the meaningful work they do, go check out their website!

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