Having finally dragged myself away from La Paz (I really enjoy La Paz), I caught the world’s coldest overnight bus (8hrs) to Cochabamba. What is it with Bolivian bus drivers and their desire to freeze their passengers to death?! I knew I was in a lot of trouble when all the locals got on with 2 big, heavy blankets apiece…
For those of us who aren’t terribly interested in buildings, most museums, statues (including big Jesus ones) and fountains, the main attraction for Cochabamba is Parque Nacional Toro Toro, which promises interesting geological scenery, fossils and dinosaur footprints. I was in!
I was going to go on a tour ($) to visit the National Park, but it is actually incredibly easy to do it more cheaply and semi-independently. Essentially all you have to do is head to the corner of Av. Republica and Calle Mairana, pay your 35 Bolivianos and wait for the minivan to fill up with people. This can be immediate (if you are lucky and are the final person required), or can take up to a couple of hours. So be prepared to wait! Minivans to Toro Toro seem to run from about 6am to 6pm.
Once the minivan is full (note: you have assigned seats so when they write your name down on the sheet of paper, make sure you try to get a decent seat), then begins the 4-4.5 hour trip to travel the 138km to Toro Toro. Why does it take so long? Well, for most of its length, the road is single lane only and made from cobblestones. Can you imagine how much effort must have gone into making a ~120km long road out of cobblestones??!!
When you get to Toro Toro, there are quite a few options for places to stay, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a place.
Then head down to the main plaza where you will find the Oficina de Turismo (where you have to pay 30 Bolivianos to enter the National Park) and the Guides Office, where you can arrange excursions (you must be accompanied by a guide in Toro Toro). The really great thing about the Guides Office is that they gather all the different visitors together to share the costs of the excursions. So even if you are travelling by yourself, they will join you up with others so you don’t have to pay the whole cost yourself. You just have to be there at 7:30am.
There are several excursions in the park, some of which can be combined to make a full day trip:
- Ciudad de Itas
- Caverna de Umajalanta
- El Vergel
- Chiflon Qaqa
- Siete Vueltas
- Ruinas de Llama Chaki
- Cementario de Tortugas
We didn’t get to do the last 2, but did the rest over 2.5 days. Stay tuned!
BTW Toro Toro is totally obsessed with dinosaurs (you’ll see why in the next blog posts)! You’ll find them all throughout the town including the main square and busting out of the sporting complex!