Welcome, friends, to Parque Nacional Toro Toro!
In true Bolivian fashion, getting to the park – a mere 192 km north of Sucre – required 1) An overnight bus northwest to Oruro during which our bus company was reported to the cops for overselling tickets, 2) A 3-hr bus northeast to Cochabamba during which a salesman preached from the bus aisle for over an hour, telling us that Asians are skinny and zen and have no stomach cancer because of ginseng supplements which he has for a low low price, 3) A weekend spent idling in Cochabamba as it was Bolivian labor day, followed by, finally, 4) A 4 1/2-hr bus southeast over cobblestone mountain roads to Toro Toro.
Cochabamba highlights from that weekend:
- Some great street art.
- Api – a breakfast drink of purple corn, cinnamon, clove, and orange peel, blended into a thick puree and served hot. Most of the time served with a flat fried dough filled with sour cheese.
- One of the five largest Jesus statues in the world, which we visit by huffing our way up a thousand stairs.
- Large roving bands of street dogs.
- The Devil’s Alleyway, or witch’s street, featuring mosaic portraits of important women throughout South American history (pictured above).
- Lots of people complimenting J’s mohawk haircut.
Toro Toro is a cute little town clearly putting their recently acquired tourist dollars to good use on various community improvement projects. This is only slightly comforting since we also discover that the park entrance, advertised as 30 Bob, jumped to 100 Bob just last week. This is still only about $14 USD each, but with a daily average of only $30 for the both of us, we’re miffed. We’re also required to hire local guides at additional cost in order to enter the park, including to visit the dinosaur footprints we can see from our rooftop.
We immediately find a cute alojamiento room with a big window overlooking the main square for 25 Bob each ($3.60 USD), have a delicious lechon dinner at the local market and are feeling better. We then watch the entire gringo population of Toro Toro buy a beer and sit in the square quietly drinking, not knowing what else to do in such a small, quiet town.
We end up making the most of the park through a couple of combined trips and split the cost of a guide by grouping up with other travelers:
Day 1: Ciudad de Itas and Caverna de Umajalanta.
Ciudad de Itas.
Ancient cave depictions of J’s new haircut.
Huge networks of natural sandstone caves.
We then head underground for a full 2 hours, spelunking through Caverna de Umajalanta.
Cool cave formations.
It gets tight.
J finds what is totally a dinosaur bone.
Day 2: Cañon de Toro Toro and El Vergel waterfall.
We hike down past tons of dinosaur footprints into Toro Toro canyon. There are delicious pools of clear waters running down, where we took a delightful (albeit freezing cold) swim.
At the bottom, we came to El Vergel waterfall – an entire wall of water trickling through jungle.
Overlooking the canyon.
Next up: La Paz and Sorata!
Lots of love!
C and J