Reluctantly with my DSLR out of action I decided to head to Torotoro. This page might take a little while to load as the photos are different. Anyways at the time I had wasted two days, having fun but not really achieving much, in Cochabamba trying to find a solution and having booked a flight to La Paz from Santa Cruz to La Paz on 12th August I needed to get moving if I still wanted to see everything I had planned.
Luckily the night before I had met Adriaan and Guido who were also headed to Torotoro so I banded us together and suggested they book the same hostel. We left at 6:45 in order to get the 7am minibus from Avenida Republica so we could try and get on a tour that afternoon. And we were treated to Thai sunrise.
I was told by many people that you can either get a minibus or a bus to the National Park. The busses are cheaper and take longer so we opted for a minibus which is 35bs. They leave when full so it’s best to get there early as the journey is 4-5 hours along some of the dustiest and bumpiest roads I’ve had the pleasure to experience so far-don’t expect to be comfortable. We arrived at 7am as I was told by other travellers that if you go later you can be left waiting a long time before you get on a bus. Luckily we only waited an hour and at just after 8am we were on our way. Be careful as although there was a toilet break on the way there there was not on the way back!
After bouncing around for 4 and a half hours I was happy to arrive in the little town of Torotoro. We were especially lucky as for once I arrived in a town during the fiesta. The town was buzzing and we quickly checked in, got some water and headed to the plaza to get on a tour. There was nothing to help us in the plaza and after stopping by the town hall, which has a dinosaur bursting out of it, we went back to the hostel and were sent to the right place which luckily for us was around the corner.
You have to buy a ticket for the park which is valid for 4 days and is 100bs as a tourist and then you must explore the park on an organised tour. The office is open from 7:30-12 and then 2-5pm. Basically it’s up to yourself to split into tour groups and the cost of the tour is then divided by the number of people. Luckily there were three of us and we decided to explore the caves on the first day and were easily paired up with a Bolivian family, a father and two daughters. At around 2:40 we were in a jeep on the way to the caves and in hindsight this was a good choice as the weather started to become cloudy and that didn’t matter as we would be crawling around in the dark.
We arrived at the car park and it was a short walk to the caves, passing a snack store and we stopped to register and get our helmets with some flashy LEDs. And then we were off towards the mouth of the cave which you can see below.
As we walked I to the darkness it was time to turn on the lights and we met a group of people exiting the cave. They were dusty and looked very happy to see daylight again. I asked them how it was and they said “I hope you are not claustrophobic”. This reaffirmed what Bell, from Upclose, had told me about he caves and I was nervous but determined. A big part of me did think what is the worst that could happen if I did get stuck. I mean that Tun tours here every day and it would be hard to find me.
We climbed down a ledge with the help of a rope and then back up and immediately we were crawling in a very small space which opened out into a larger cavern. Our guide Eugenio took us about the cave and we climbed up and down ladders and ropes exploring more of the cave. We reached a part where we could go no further and Eugenio asked us to sit down and turn off our lights. We spent a few minutes in the darkness which I thought was a really nice touch and then continued. I thought we would head back the way we had came but no. I was about to find out what the other group meant.
We crawled through tiny spaces that I wasn’t sure that I would fit but actually it was all a little too easy and really fun. We came to a pool and saw some blind fish and then crawled and climbed more. After about 2 hours we ended up where we had started and it was a relief to see the sky again.
The next day we had all agreed to go on the canyon and waterfalls tour, meeting at 8:30. I liked our little group and it was a shame they were all leaving that afternoon. The night before we had pizza and I didn’t get to enjoy the fiesta as I had a migraine due to not drinking enough water. But I was happy to explore more of the park. The group was expanded by an Argentinian girl and a man who didn’t really interact with us. He did however have a great hat umbrella. Our guide was a little late as he had been enjoying the fiesta the night before.
This was a walking tour and we were first taken to see the footprints which as over 80 million years old. Just think about that for a second.
After the foot prints we headed up the road towards the canyon. On the route you get great views of the whole park.
We left the road and then started following a dry riverbed bed. This would be teeming with water in rainy season. It was actually really fascinating to see how the water shapes the land and how powerful erosion is.
And then we reached the canyon and my mind was blown. Firstly the signs they have here are great, especially this one asking you not to shout. But the enormity of what the water had achieved was astonishing. There was a walkway out above the canyon and I went straight on, my heights fear is diminishing by the day.
After we followed the path a little further and walked down the 800 steps to the bottom of the canyon. I lost count so I can’t tell you if the number is true.
We then hiked downstream a little way before meeting waterfalls. I was a little upset not to have brought my swimming costume but then I paddled and my feet started to hurt as it was so cold! I put my boots back on and had fun jumping across boulders and walking in the river whilst some of the others jumped in.
After a quick break we headed back up the 800 steps, there was no way I was counting this time and then walked back to town. On the way we spotted a party and the guide took us along. Before we knew it we were handed free beer, food and chicha. One of the Bolivian girls commented that she wishes she was a gringo as we got free things but we shared everything we were given. Everyone was so friendly and I wish I could have stayed but everyone else left and I decided not to stay alone…maybe I should have done!
As a group we decided to have lunch and walked though the town which is really pretty.
After lunch I was alone again and decided to chill at the hostel. There were only four of us staying on this night and it was full the day before. I met a French guy and we decided to check out the fiesta later and I ended up playing games with the daughters of the hostel owners as I made the mistake of asking them what games they were playing. I actually ran around for about an hour before heading out to see the fiesta. Sadly as this was the last night the town seemed a little exhausted and there were parties but not much going on at any of them and none seemed inviting. I had one more tour I wanted to do the next day and with an early rise I decided to call it a night.
Ciudad de Itas
I headed to the office not very hopeful that I would be able to get on a tour but then lots of people started turning up. My French friend suggested that I speak to people to join a group and I awkwardly managed to join a group of 6 who were doing this in the morning and caves in the afternoon. Actually if you can this is a better way to do the tours as it’s much more cost effective.
The Ciudad de Itas is at 4000 metres and take around an hour to drive. On the way we stopped and I snapped the most famous shots of Torotoro.
Eugenio was yet again my guide and I started bonding with my new group. Two French, town Canadians and two Dutch guys.
We started by walking up nd over the first hill.
As you can see the views from here are stunning.
On this tour you see some very different cave structures which are tall and have big curved edges.
There is a lot of climbing, some of which is quite sketchy and you do need a head for heights but everything is beautiful.
We came across a second cave complex.
And saw some of the local rabbits.
After a couple of hours we headed to the lunch stop. It was at this point I was due to leave and I was told there would be transport back to town. I thought the Jeep would take me but no a 17 year old boy showed up on a motorbike. There were of course no helmets as this is Bolivia and I realised I could either walk the 8km back to town, wait for the group or jump on the bike. So I took the sensible option and got on the bike fearing for my life the entire time. He actually drove really safely but it didn’t stop me holding on for dear life. But there was another first. I was back at town and soon on a 5 hour minibus ride back to Cochabamba.