Saturday, July 6, 2013

Torotoro National Park (June 27th - July 1st, 2013)

After resting for a couple of days in Cochabamba, we decided to catch a bus to the small and remote Torotoro National Park. We´d received some contradictory information about the time and place of the bus departure, so we ventured out to the Southern (and more dangerous) part of Cochabamba in order to find the correct bus company. After asking around, we found the right place and bought tickets to a bus scheduled to depart at 6 PM. In the evening we realized how lucky we were to have gotten seats, because the bus had been completely overbooked. Many people were standing during the ride, and others were left behind. We had read that the trip should take four hours - wishful thinking - it actually took six. That combined with a delay in departure meant that we arrived in Torotoro village past midnight. Fortunately, we´d met a person working at a tour agency while buying tickets. Javier - a Bolivian who´d lived in the Ukraine - told us about his small hostel in Torotoro. Upon arrival, he helped us, along with a girl from Switzerland (Lea) and another from Chile (Darenka), get to the hostel. He then called a tour guide (when do they sleep?) to organize a trip for us for the next day.

The following morning, our 21-year-old guide Denys drove the four of us to Ciudad de Itas (Itas City), a group of magnificent labyrinths and caves. Here, we walked for about two hours, had lunch, saw a condor (I wish I'd had some binoculars) and some rock paintings of unknown origin.

Us and some rock formations - it´s fascinating what water can do!

A path at Ciudad de Itas

Afterwards, we drove to the Umajalanta cave - the deepest cave in Bolivia. During the short walk to its entrance we saw some dinosaur footprints. Similar to the rock paintings, the footprints have not been thoroughly investigated, and much work could still be done here. Although we were in the cave for over three hours and climbed about 850 m, we only saw a small part of the cave. The climb was interesting and quite demanding. Some places along the route were very narrow, and we also needed to abseil a couple of times. It was well worth it, though: the stalagmites and stalactites were absolutely beautiful, and sometimes took strange forms. We also saw an underground lake, home to a species of white and blind fish (Trichomycterus chaberti sp.).

Helmets and headlights were a must

The stalagmite called "Christmas tree"

Some places were really narrow

The next day, Denys took us on a small hike to the nearby natural attractions. We walked along a (currently dry) riverbed, and saw several astounding rock formations, including one that resembled a theater, and another that looked like a bridge. We also saw more dinosaur footprints. A bit later, we arrived at the viewpoint of the Torotoro canyon, 300 meters deep. It was absolutely breathtaking! We then hiked down the canyon and arrived at the Vergel - a cascade that falls down through a set of lush green mosses. Here, we even had a short dip in the not-so-warm water (10-12 degrees C).

Dinosaurs roamed this land

At the Torotoro canyon

The Vergel

In the evening we went to the Pachamama house, built mainly out of the stalagmites, stalactites, rocks with fossils and other interesting materials from the area.

A bench in the Pachamama house

That evening, our companions took a bus to Cochabamba, and we remained in Torotoro for an extra day. We wanted to go to the Llama Chaki ruins, and thought that we could do a 19 km hike to see them. We found out, however, that the trail would be 19 km one way, making the round trip very long. Also, it was predicted to be a sunny day, which is not ideal on a route without trees. We thus decided to forgo the hike and planned a walk to the nearby fossils instead. We went up along another river and arrived at a narrow layer of rock with thousands of fossils of mollusks. These are thought to be several hundred million years old.

Fossils big and small

Our wonderful trip to Torotoro ended the next day, when we took a 6 AM bus back to Cochabamba.

For more pictures of the region, check out this album.

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