Torotoro!

A jump back into the past! Spending time in an old village, a cave and canyons. On top of that we followed the footsteps of many dinosaurs. All of this, found and lost again in Torotoro. Once we got out, we went to relax in the beauty of the real capital of Bolivia.

While traveling the Amazon by boat, Alina, a Peruvian tour guide on holiday, recommended us to go to National Park Torotoro in Bolivia. The only way to get there is by minibus from Cochabamba, a student city with few tourists. So, after our days in La Paz we took a bus in the direction of Cochabamba. Instead of rushing off to Torotoro immediately, we opted to stay one night in the city. We stayed in “The Running Chaski” hostel, one of the few and relatively expensive hostels in Cochabamba. Although, we have to admit we did like it quite a lot. We spend the remainder of the day in Cochabamba and enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the city. Mind you, there aren’t any special sights or activities in Cochabamba (except a huge statue of Jesus Christ). But after several weeks in Peru with its many tourists, we did enjoy a “normal” city again.

Anyway, the next day we made our way to Torotoro. The minibus took about 5 hours to get there, and since 90% of the road was made out of stones (where I grew up we would say: “ne kasseiweg”) we were pretty shaken when we arrived. The views along the road were amazing though. During the bus ride, we also got to know a French couple, Romain and Camille.

Torotoro is a very small and old village. For its size, it has many hostels for the tourists that visit the national park. Together with Romain and Camille we went looking for a hostel. This did not go without any troubles but in the end, it worked out more or less. We went out to have a beer and juice when two young Dutch guys recognized Romain and Camille. The Dutch guys, Imme and Floris, had met Camille and Romain before while traveling in Argentina. For us it was nice to speak some Dutch again to someone else besides ourselves.

To visit the national park, you have to take guided tours. In order to book one of these tours you have to get up early in the morning, go to the office on the main square of Torotoro, form a group of maximum 6 other tourists (the more people there are in a group the less it costs) and book a tour for the same day. Since we were six of us, we agreed to go together next morning.

We booked a full day tour and after breakfast at the local market we went into the mountains with our guide and a driver. The first part of the tour was a walk in “Ciudad de Itas”. A landscape of beautiful eroded rocks, forming small canyons and semi-caves. It was definitely a really nice experience.

One of the advantages of visiting such places in a secluded corner of a country like Bolivia is that there are not that many tourists to start with. And besides that, there are no markings, or ready-made pathways, etc… I mean, the trail was pretty okay, but we would not be allowed to do half of what we did in Torotoro if it was in Yellowstone for example. While this involves of course a bit more ‘risk’ and more ‘dangerous’ passages it is also a lot of fun.

Around noon we got back to the car and got to our next stop. A visit to the cave! We were looking forward to it but did not expect that much of it. Well, it would become the highlight of the day! But first, while we walked to the cave we passed by some dinosaur footprints in petrified mud. It was quite funny to see and strange to realize these footsteps were made millions of years ago, by migrating dinosaurs walking on the beach (while at this moment the place is at an altitude of almost 4000m).

The cave was a lot of fun, we got a helmet with a semi-decent light and went on in the huge cave. Again, no restrictions, no clear paths and a lot of sliding and crawling. You could also see the drawbacks of this approach though, many of the hundreds, if not, thousands year old stalagmites and stalactites were broken. Sometimes we couldn’t help ourselves holding them while making our way through the cave. It is probably a good thing a big portion of the cave is too dangerous to be visited by the crowds. That being said, the majority of the cave is still intact and amazing! We were happy we brought our own headlights as well as they were much better than the ones we got from the tour. They got us to view a lot more of the amazing interior of the cave.

Being a young and dynamic group *cough*, our guide took an alternative route with us which was a bit more adventurous (we asked for extra adventure of course!). This was when things got even more exciting, a stretch of about 20m or 30m crawling flat on our bellies and making our way through very narrow passages with the knowledge there is hundred meters or more of solid rock just above you! To give you an idea of this experience we made some pictures with our action camera and you can find a short video on our Facebook page!

After the cave the tour was over. We went for a drink and agreed to go on a half day tour to the canyon the following morning.

The tour the following day was basically a 2 to 3-hour hike to the canyon and back, on the way we passed more dinosaur footprints, including some very big ones. The canyon itself was pretty impressive, not that big but very beautiful (the ones we saw in the USA were definitely much bigger!). We went down into the canyon and I had a very refreshing swim with the other guys. Nina opted to wet her feet only. 😊

The climb back up proved to be hard in the hot midday sun, but eventually we made it. Back in the village we had the rest of the afternoon free. Romain, Camille, Imme and Floris got a bus back to Cochabamba the same afternoon while we stayed for another night.

The following morning we woke up slowly and later in the day went back to Cochabamba. We stayed again for a night.

Our next stop was the real capital of Bolivia, Sucre, apparently a small and beautiful city. We read some horror stories on the internet about the bus ride from Cochabamba to Sucre, especially in rainy season… We were a bit worried but after some advice from locals about which company to take, we decided to go for the night bus anyway. Well, it was a delicious ride, we did not have any problem sleeping at all even though the road was a bit bumpy. Probably a lot had to do with the comfortable seats we booked.

We arrived very early morning in Sucre and headed to our hostel. It seemed our room was already free and we could spend the remainder of the morning sleeping without paying for the night. Very nice!

The following days we spent exploring and enjoying beautiful Sucre. There isn’t very much special to see or to do, but again we enjoyed this. There is a park with more dinosaur footsteps near the city, but since we already saw plenty of them in Torotoro we decided not to go. We did visit the cemetery of Sucre though, very beautiful, and it reminded us a bit of Père la Chaise in Paris.

We notice we travel a lot slower and more relaxed compared to the first months of our trip. Sometimes we skip on some things but we do not mind this and we enjoy our relaxed travel style!