Besides visiting the gigantic Jesus Cristo statue towering above the city, one of the main reasons people visit Cochabamba is to get access to Bolivia’s fantastic Torotoro National Park (I’m a HUGE National Parks fan – visit as many as possible wherever you go!).
I wasn’t planning on going originally – I still had many pages to go on my Spanish-to-English grant translation project, and I didn’t even know how to get there. Luckily, my Cabana Las Lilas hostel owner Alex was willing to take tourists on trips the park and was down to coordinate all the logistics. With another couple from Denmark and another traveler from Germany interested in going, I stayed up all night doing as much as I could to finish my translation project before packing my bags to head out to the park famously known for dinosaur tracks, cave exploring, and beautiful canyons.
It was pretty awesome – everything and nothing that I expected. The drive there was pretty nice too:
While it’s a four hour drive from the city, it’s an amazingly gorgeous journey through small towns and stunning valleys and old river beds. At around 2 pm, we finally arrived to the small town of Torotoro and settled into our hostel.
(Note to travelers: Some (mostly day trip) tour guides or companies will forget to tell you what to bring on the trip and what type of fitness you must be in to do a particular tour (companies out here will pretty much let ANYONE go on any tour, which is kinda crazy. Be prepared! I wasn’t, but luckily everything turned out okay.)
Our first day trip took us on a long walk (AKA “hike”) through Torotoro’s natural history and gave us a first glimpse of the park’s dinosaur tracks, preserved in petrified mud (during extremely long dry spells when rain doesn’t happen for extended periods of time, the earth’s clay can turn to stone).
After taking millions of pictures next to the Torotoro’s famous huellas de dinosauros, we walked over to a bridge to take in the views of a gorgeous canyon…
I have to admit that I was kinda freaking out on the bridge – I felt like I was going to fall through the entire time. I keep thinking to myself, “This would never happen in the States…” — too many lawsuits!
Unbeknownst to our group, we then proceeded to hike DOWN that very same canyon. It was a lot of stone stairs, but it was a beautiful hike.
When we reached the bottom, we found out that we had to scramble over boulders and step precariously over branches and rocks in the middle of the river to get to our destination (this is what I mean by guides not notifying tourists about the trip’s activities!). Not a big deal, it was pretty fun actually. But I had no idea where we were going. “To the Vergel”, Alex told me. What is that?
The “Vergel”, we soon learned, is a series of cascading waterfalls that trickled down the canyon’s walls and into the river. Like something straight out of a movie! Totally worth the hike down.
Since I had received very little pre-trip preparation or notice, I was not prepared at all for the day’s activities. Luckily I did have a pair of shorts in my bag (to accomodate the heat), and did bring hiking shoes. The one thing I lacked was sufficient amounts of bottled water. Luckily, there’s a place below a cave near the Vergel that filters freshwater as it pours through the rocks and down onto the ground. I quickly filled my 1.5 L bottle full of fresh filtered canyon water – a great relief since we spent the next half hour hiking 3/4 of a mile up out of the canyon.
We walked back just in time to watch a gorgeous sunset pass over distant mountains and green fields in the valley. Talk about an amazing day at Torotoro National Park!