|In the streets of Toro Toro.|
An overnight bus took us to Cochabamba, in central Bolivia, from where our plan was to go to Toro Toro National Park, ‘relatively’ close by. As can sometimes be the case in South America, we were sent to the wrong place, and had to back track in order to get to the right point. Oh well, at least we got to see some of Cochabamba along the way.
Toro Toro National Park is only 135 kilometres southeast of Cochabamba and its drawcard is its dinosaur tracks, spectacular geological formations, caves, hikes and ruins. We had met some travellers along the way who had told us that it’s a Bolivian must-see, highlight and hidden gem as well as not being touristy. SOLD! We were also told that it’s only accessible by bumpy gravel roads and riverbeds, which takes seven hours in the dry season and much longer in the rainy season when sometimes the road becomes totally impassable. Information on this place is scarce, as for many off-the-beaten-track places in South America, but we determined to do it!
|That’s a pretty big foot print!|
|Dinosaur foot prints.|
|Welcome to Toro Toro.|
We finally did get to the ‘place’ where small pick-ups take you to Toro Toro … when full! OK, so we had to wait a couple of hours, or three! Patience! All good things take time, or so they say. After making friends with a gorgeous French-Canadian lady called Audrey and her lovely partner and child, we were off. The road was bumpy (more like a dirt track … OK gravel road!) and it took around five hours to cover approximately 140 kilometres. The town is tiny, barely a central plaza and a few surrounding streets. We searched for a place to sleep and found a basic, but clean place on the ‘main drag’, run by the delightful Maritza and her two year old Santiago. What the place did not have in mod-cons it made up for by the warmth of its host.
|Toro Toro … serene, tranquil, breathtaking!|
Toro Toro National park protects a remote and sparsely inhabited stretch of the arid Bolivian Andes. It is the country’s smallest national park but with a huge wow factor! What it lacks in size it makes up for with its powerful scenery and varied attractions. The park encompasses everything from hanging valleys to eroded canyons, ringed by low mountains whose twisted geological formations are strewn with fossils, dinosaur footprints and labyrinth limestone cave complexes. We spent a couple of days doing some day trips exploring the area and were well and truly blown away. The main attractions and indeed highlights are the limestone Umajallanta Caves and the waterfall-filled Torotoro Canyon.
|Umajallanta Caves … not for the fainthearted.|
The caves most certainly were not for the faint-hearted. I was half-expecting an easy-going guided tour, but this was all about crawling on your hands and knees and doing in Bear Grylls style. After more than two hours I emerged a little shaky but truly blown away by the grandeur of what I had seen. In comparison, despite the dizzying height, the canyon was far more sedate and the Vergel waterfall and surrounds nothing short of spectacular … and a lovely spot for a swim, might I add.
|Umajallanta Caves …window to another world.
|Toro Toro Canyon.|
|On top of the world … City of Itas.|
|City of Itas.|
We also visited the City of Itas, 21 kilometres out of the town centre. At 3800 metres above sea level it is an area of majestic and huge rock formations which really does look like a city made of stone. Huge caverns with arches that look like baroque churches have been carved out by Mother Nature, but in parts there is evidence of ‘human tampering’ in the form of rock art. It was a drizzly day when we visited and so the overall feeling was simply one of majesty and grandeur. Without a doubt, this entire area has been a South American highlight. Still virtually unknown on the gringo-tourist-trail, I reckon this is the time to be here.
This has been without a doubt, a major highlight of our trip. Laid-back and lazy with very few ‘tourist mod-cons’ yet a veritable geological wonderland. When the tourists get a grip of this I am sure it will provide Machu Picchu with some decent rivalry!
|Bye, bye Santi … off to our next destination!|
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions”. – Hafiz
|Off to school.|
|City of Itas.|
|The town with a splendiferous back drop.|
|We did it! Umajallanta Caves.|
|Toro Toro life.|
|Toro Toro stroller.|
|This is the way we wash the clothes.|
|Alex and Santi.|
|Out and about.|
|Toro Toro local guide.|
|Land of the dinosaurs.|
|On our way to Toro Toro Canyon.|
|City of Itas.|
|I want to ride my bicycle.|
|Walk to Vergel Waterfal.|
|One of the locals.|