North of Lago Titicaca, flush with the Peruvian border, is the Cordillera Apolobamba, the remote northern extension of the Cordillera Oriental. The splendour of the high mountain scenery in this isolated range equals or even exceeds that of the Cordillera Real, and the environment is more pristine. The region is protected by the Area Natural de Manejo Integrado Nacional Apolobamba, which covers nearly five hundred square kilometres. The range is still rich in wildlife only rarely seen elsewhere: condors, caracaras and other big birds are frequently seen; pumas and spectacled bears still roam the most isolated regions; and large herds of vicuña can be seen from the road which crosses the plain of Ulla Ulla, a high plateau that runs along the western side of the range.

During the colonial era the Cordillera Apolobamba was an important gold-mining centre, and the mining settlements established by the Spanish also served as bases for conquistadors and missionaries to launch expeditions down into the Amazon lowlands, though these were never brought under effective Spanish control. During the Great Rebellion of 1781 many of the colonial mines in the region were abandoned, and rumours persist of a mother lode of gold concealed in a long-abandoned mine, still waiting to be discovered. Tourist infrastructure is virtually nonexistent in this isolated region, but for the adventurous it offers perhaps Bolivia’s best high-mountain trekking. The only real towns in the Cordillera Apolobamba are Charazani and Pelechuco, both of which can be reached by tough but spectacular bus journeys from La Paz. Between the two runs the fabulous four- or five-day Trans-Apolobamba Trek.

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