How to go to Sajama, where to stay, what you will see and what you need to know. This post is designed to help people who are interested in visiting this fabulous place plan their trip and avoid a few common mistakes.
* 1$=6.95 BoB (2012)
After 10 days in Oruro, the national park of Sajama was our next destination. We decided to go there between Christmas and the New Year to avoid any unfortunate surprises, as the only phone number we had for booking an accommodation didn’t work. Here is what we did, step-by-step.
You can get to Sajama either from La Paz or Oruro, or any other place from where you can catch a bus to Patacamaya. The only buses that go to Sajama directly are the ones to Arica in Chile, but they will drop you 12 km from Sajama village, so you will have to wait for a car to pass by, or walk!
Once you’re in Patacamaya you will have to wait for the ONLY bus that goes to Sajama to be full. The bus will leave between 12 pm and 1.30 pm, so you need to be there BEFORE 12 pm.
The ride to Sajama lasts three hours. It is shorter on the way back, and it costs 25 BoB each. There are no stops or breaks during this three-hour ride (use the toilet beforehand). Also, the seats are not that wide or big, and there is no room for stretching.
*Though Patacamaya is a small village, you will find toilets, restaurants and fruit available. It is also the place where people in Sajama get supplies, as nothing grows in Sajama.
Note that sometimes there is no bus to Sajama on Sundays, so play it safe and be flexible.
Once you’re in Sajama (which is quicker and easier than it sounds), you will have to pay for entrance to the park, 30 BoB/person. You will also need to register at the park with your passport information.
To go back to Patacamaya, the same bus leaves Sajama every day (again, double check for Sundays) at 5.30 am. You need to be at the square (aka plaza) at 5.15 am, and wear a lot of warm clothes as it is totally freezing at that time, even in summer!
We asked at different places in Oruro about the various options for accommodation in Sajama.
Here are the answers we got:
Sajama is a very small village. Only 80 families live there, so you don’t have many options. We took all of our meals at the Hostal Sajama for 18BoB/meal and 14BoB for breakfast (like the six other guests, with whom we spent the New Year’s holiday, like a family!). There is another “restaurant” at the grocery on the plaza, where the price was 14BoB/meal , but we didn’t try it.
It is very important that you take:
“The volcanoes there are a pair: to the left is Parinacota, and to the left Pomerape, which are both over 6,000 meters (this is what appeals to climbers). Then there is the massive one, Sajama, which is the highest point in all Bolivia and a very intense climb, due to both the glaciers and the altitude. All three of these peaks are in the Cordillera Occidental mountain range, which has an impressive number of mountains to climb.
All three volcanoes are best climbed in Bolivia’s climbing season , which is best between May and August. We were there just at the beginning of rainy season, which had much more snow and a higher chance of lightning storms.
A lot of climbers suggest doing Parinacota and Pomerape both in five days , with a day of rest at base camp in between. Pomerape is rated at a more difficult level then Parinacota due to the technical ice climbing needed to cross a large hanging glacier near the summit. However, Parinacota is higher in altitude.
For climbing, we referenced the guidebook The Andes, A Guide For Climbers by John Biggar, which includes the entire Andes mountain range. For equipment, we brought: ice axes, crampons, single layer climbing boots, pickets for protection in snowy conditions, rope, ice screws, a stove to melt snow and burn unleaded fuel, and wind protection. However, we did not end up using the rope, picket, or ice screws for Parinacota (because it was not necessary). It would probably be useful to double layer boots in climbing season because the weather is not as warm. And of course, bring a shotgun if you are interested in fresh Vicuna for dinner!”