Lower Chapare Road

Lawrence Rubey and A. Bennett Hennessey

The lower section of the Chapare road, between 1800 and 800 meters has the most pristine forest on the Chapare Road. An unpaved stretch of 27 kilometers offers fabulous vistas of steep, heavily forested slopes. Access, however, is difficult; there are few trails leading into the forest. Most birders end up birding the roadside as many sections of the road have "good" forest right up to the road edge. The biggest frustration with roadside birding is the large volume of traffic and resultant dust. Since this is the main road between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, traffic can be heavy (by Bolivian standards this means a vehicle every minute or two).

At kilometer post 100 driving from Cochabamba, just after Miguelito, UMOPAR (the equivalent of Bolivian DEA) has established a checkpoint to ensure that no chemicals are brought into the Chapare for cocaine manufacture and no coca leaves or cocaine base are brought out. From this checkpoint, the road is unpaved for the next 27 kilometers, largely because the area is geologically unstable. These 27 kilometers offer a wonderful transect birding from 2000 meters (at the UMOPAR checkpoint) to 800 meters at the second bridge over the Rio Espiritu Santo where the pavement begins again. Kilometer 114 at about 1200 meters has some attractive forest and makes a nice stop. Bolivian Recurvebill has been seen and heard close to the west side of the road at kilometer 120, just before the Rio Chuyumuyu. There are also a couple Andean Cock-of-the-Rock leks somewhat close to the road and you may be lucky enough to spot one flying across the road.

From the second bridge over the Rio Espiritu Santo to Villa Tunari, it is a quick 29 kilometers to Villa Tunari on a good paved road. Unfortunately, this last stretch is rather poor for birds.