Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tunari National Park (July 3rd - 5th, 2013)

Cochabamba is surrounded by beautiful mountains that seemed to just want us to climb them. They are part of the Tunari National Park and include Cerro Tunari - the highest mountain of Central Bolivia (5035m).

Our first visit to the park was very easy. We just took the microbus 35 and got off at the edge of the city. From there we started walking uphill. With a bit of searching around in a dodgy neighborhood, we discovered a track (also for cars) that we followed up. We walked slowly and saw very few people. We got up to almost 4000m, but we not sure of the precise altitude, as we had left all our equipment in the hostel. We had been warned by a friendly guy at the spitting llama that robberies may occur in the lower part of the park, so we only took the absolutely necessary things with us. The view from the top was nice, but probably not worth the whole trip. More important than the view was that we got well acclimatized for the following day, when we planned to go to Cerro Tunari.

Cochabamba and its statue of Christ (on the left)

Cerro Tunari with its 5035m in the distance

Interesting plants we saw during our acclimatization trip

We did not sleep much during the night, and our muscles were aching a lot from the previous day's hike. Nonetheless, when the alarm clock rang at 5 AM, we had breakfast and left our hostel 45 minutes later. To get to the beginning of the Northern, and easier route up the Cerro Tunari, we needed to get to Quillacollo, and from there take a bus towards Morochata. At about 6 AM, we did not see any micro going towards Quillacollo, so we took a taxi instead. This was a lucky decision: we'd heard that the bus to Morochata would leave at 7 AM, but when we arrived there at 6:15, it was already ready to leave. We got the last two seats and started a ride up to 4200 m. The serpentines were quite impressive. At 7:30 we reached a sign indicating the Laguna Macho, got off the bus, and started walking towards this lake. We were not the only people heading in this direction: we also saw a Bolivian family with a 4-year old kid, planning to climb the Cerro Tunari and return on the same day.

A beautiful day in the mountains

Our plan for the day was less ambitious. We planned just to hike to Laguna Macho (ca 4600m), camp there and climb the mountain the next day. We arrived at the lake at around 10 AM, and as we were feeling quite good and it was very early, we decided to continue towards the summit. We hid most of our things behind a large rock and continued only with small backpacks.

Laguna Macho is even accessible by a car

We walked up slowly and as we looked back, we saw the lake getting smaller and smaller. For some time near the edge of the lake, the path disappeared, but the terrain was easy to follow. Moreover, our GPS could guide us in the right direction.

Small lake from far, far away

I had problems with my breathing. I was trying to keep to the rhythm of 30 steps and then a small break of 15 breaths. Not always did I manage, and many times had to take a longer break and sit down for a while. Laura, on the other hand, could breathe more easily, and had to wait for me many times. At around 2 PM, we arrived to the top of Cerro Tunari, meaning that both of us reached a new altitude record of 5035m. I enjoyed the view sitting and eating cookies while Laura took pictures of the surrounding mountains.

It seems that there are no summit crosses in Bolivia

Us at 5035m

Laura with Cochabamba far below
The way down - the same as the way up - was an easy walk. We arrived at our bags at around 4 PM, and soon afterwards set up our tents and cooked dinner. It was a delicious combination of one can of chili con carne and another can of beans. It tasted just marvelous and fed us well.

Laura unpacking her things.
The night was long, as we went to sleep already at 6 PM. The next day we took it very easy. We waited for the sun to dry the tent, cooked breakfast, and started walking only after 10 AM. We were lucky: after ten minutes of waiting at the road, a bus came and took us down to Quillocollo (we didn't get seats, though). From there we took a shared taxi back to Cochabamba and, feeling happy, arrived at our hostel to take a warm shower.

More photos of the Tunari area can be seen here.


  1. Překvapila mě velikost Cochabamby, vždyť vypadá jak velkoměsto? Že do pěti tisíc šplháš, miláčku, když tam sotva funíš - Laura kolem Tebe létá jak holubička, viď. Tak ať se daří a těším se na další cestopisy, překlady do češtiny už mi jdou skvěle. Věra.

  2. Just a short hello to say thank you for all your reports. I am way behind with reading but think about you! Greetings from Vienna, Ortrun