Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012, 24th – 29th October: Torotoro National Park, Near Cochabamba, Bolivia

For the full complement of photos corresponding to this blog entry, use the following link to the set of photos in my Flickr pages:

The Torotoro National Park is situated approximately 140 km (88 miles) south of the city of Cochabamba. The countryside around the village of Torotoro is a geologist´s playground with rock formations in many different shapes and colours as well as caves and canyons. Palaeontologists would be similarly entertained by numerous fossils and dinosaur footprints.

The most convenient base for visiting Torotoro is Cochabamba, which is a pleasant city and a far nicer place to spend some time than La Paz. The seven hours by coach from La Paz to Cochambamba is made along the altiplano and through other spectacular scenery. Amazingly, along nearly the whole route of nearly 400 km (250 miles), there was litter scattered along the roadside, and in some of the small towns that I passed the litter was truly terrible. The reason was obvious as the Bolivians on my bus regularly threw it from the window. Sadly, Bolivia is the worst of the South American countries I have visited for litter, with many other visitors noticing it too.

Bus Journey Across the Altiplano - La Paz to Cochabamba
Getting to Torotoro from Cochabamba is a task in itself, with a five hour bus journey each way. The reason for the bus´ high suspension and heavy tread tyres became clear during the bumpy journey through the beautiful countryside on a semi-paved road. A mechanic travelled in the bus as breakdowns seem to be common enough to warrant this. Indeed, during the return journey, our bus broke down and the mechanic and driver spent half an hour getting us moving again.

Bus Breakdown Malarkey: En-Route from Torotoro to Cochabamba
I was fortunate to meet two fellow travellers on the bus to Torotoro – Martin from Germany and Vienna from Hong Kong. I enjoyed their company during tours of Torotoro National Park as well as subsequent destinations in Bolivia.

The National Park

The village of Torotoro is flanked on either side by mountains that are made of amazing semicircular creases in the earth´s crust. Above the town are spectacular views looking down the line of such mountains, like a series of vast waves in the rock.

`Waves´ in the Earth´s Crust Near Torotoro

The High Plain Near to ´Ciudad de Itlas´
On top of the plain at an altitude of around 4,200 metres, the earth and rock is a rich red colour, and we explored its cracks and crevices on the way to Ciudad de Itlas where a series of natural arches and columns create a small natural feature reminiscent of the slender columns and curved arches in gothic church architecture. Later in the day we walked and scrambled in the Humajalanta cave. The spectacle was marred a little by the fact that every reachable stalactite and stalagmite had been snapped off as a souvenir. Deep in the cave is a pool where some tiny blind fish live, having adapted to the complete darkness. Their blind state was clear as they did not respond to the presence of our head lanterns shining on them.

´Ciudad de Itlas´

Rock Detail - ´Ciuadad de Itlas´
The next day we made a tour that included many dinosaur footprints and the Torotoro canyon. At various locations in the valleys around Torotoro are places where sedimentary rock has been lifted to the surface or exposed by the action of a river. Here one can see the progression of huge beasts as they walked across a muddy plain. Some of the footprints are very large and in places there is a long line of footprints of a lumbering herbivore.

A Fossilised Dinosaur Footprint
(With My Boot There to Show How Big it is)

An Inverted Fossilised Dinosaur Footprint
The view of the Torotoro canyon from above is spectacular, but the experience is even richer when one walks and scrambles around and over the creamy red rocks and boulders at its base, with the high canyon walls and greenery far above. After stopping at the El Vergel waterfalls, we made our way to one of the lesser visited upstream sections where the canyon became thinner and more beautiful as we headed towards a great swimming spot. During the wet season, water plunges from the start of the canyon high in the plains above – things where more tranquil during my towards the end of the dry season. I swam in the thin stretch of (very cold) water only a few metres wide between high vertical walls of rock before warming up in the afternoon sun. We then climbed to the top of the canyon and headed across the valley to the village to finish a great day.

The Torotoro Canyon Viewed from Above

Following the River Course in the Torotoro Canyon

Lying Down & Looking Skyward from the Floor of the Torotoro Canyon

Red Earth, Red Sky Near Torotoro

Moonrise Near Torotoro
The village of Torotoro and the national park by the same name is a relaxing place to be and the countryside is both spectacular and beautiful. I would have happily spent more time there, but as I am in the latter stages of my travels, time is becoming a diminishing commodity with many places to visit remaining on my wish list.

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