From La Paz, we made our way to Cochabamba in a comfortable overnight bus. Busses in Bolivia have really improved since I first visited in 2012, and now we were able to enjoy a full „cama“ bus which basically means super nice and broad seats that recline almost fully. Nice! So we arrived in Cochabamba reasonably well rested and decided to straight away take a minibus onward to Toro Toro. Ouuuff! Not such a nice ride or should I say dusty, bumpy, looong 5 h…until we arrived in the little town of Toro Toro. Toro Toro is known for its national park where cool geological formations and dinosaur footprints can be observed – so that’s what we planned to do over the next 1.5 days.
Unfortunately, Mathijs couldn’t join on the first day due to some nasty chicken he ate at the market the day before. So I was off with a group of 5 other people to Ciudad de Itas which can be translated into „City of Rocks“ – and a rock city it was! First though, it was quite a long drive on bad roads again, higher and higher up the mountains, more and more into the clouds. Damn. When we arrived at Ciudad de Itas, we were completely stuck in the fog/clouds and remained so for the majority of our hike. Too bad, but once again weather was not on our (my) side. Our guide led us on a circular trek past some cool rock formations over the next 3 or so hours. And it was super impressive!! Even with the cloudy weather, some rock formations were really cool and there were some nice views…only not as much into the distance as we would have hoped for. I can only imagine how amazing this must be on a clear, sunny day!
Luckily, quite some parts of the Ciudad de Itas are little caves, so the weather doesn’t matter too much. For me, these were also the highlights! Water and erosion have shaped these rocks into really cool looking caves, something you don’t see every day. It reminded me a bit of some desert national parks in the US (of course only from the photos since I have not visited the US yet).
Afterwards, it was the same bumpy ride back – but at least this time we had some views along the way and the sun was coming out! We managed to talk our driver into some photo stops along the way, which was really nice. It’s too bad anyways that you’re just driving past so many beautiful views without being able to stop and enjoy. I guess that as tourism develops in this area, roads will improve and there might be sightseeing tours offered at one point which go from viewpoint to viewpoint. At least I hope so for future visitors!
Next day, Mathijs was able to join again luckily and we joined with another four backpackers to go on a long, hot (sun was out, yay!) hike to Vergel Canyon. At the beginning of this hike you also see the dinosaur tracks that Toro Toro is famous for. I don’t know, they were nice to see, but not too special for me. I guess it’s too hard for me to imagine that these animals really used to live on our planet at one point.
We then hiked for a while to reach the main highlight (I would say) of the trek – a viewpoint over the canyon with a cool bridge that has been built ideally for pictures. Good idea, Bolivians! We obviously took advantage of this photo opportunity. The sheer drop of the cliffs of the canyon was simply stunning!
What followed was a climb down into the canyon and along the almost dried out riverbed to some waterfalls where you could have a swim. I didn’t feel like changing into my bikini in front of all the Bolivian groups though, so we just chilled in the shade. Later, we had to climb all the way up again which was of course way more exhausting and I was not too sad when we finally arrived back in town…
…where we wanted to catch a minibus back to Cochabamba. Well, we did, in the end, but were a bit shocked at first that all the next busses seemed to be fully booked. I guess it might have been because it was Sunday afternoon and many Bolivians were heading back to their towns if they came here on a weekend trip. In the end, they switched something around though and we were able to hop on.
We didn’t want to arrive too late in Cochabamba since we still had to look for accommodation – in the end though we did end up walking around in the dark, trying to find cheap-ish hostels before having to accept that Cochabamba is an overpriced sh…hole. We had a day to kill there next day though, so spent some time walking around the city, visiting some markets, buying our bus tickets for the night and walking to the cable car up to the Christ statue on the hill…only to find out it was not running that day! Ooops. The only nice part about Cochabamba were the main squares, lined with some colonial buildings and the usual palm trees and benches in the center to relax. After a day though, we were more than happy to move on to Santa Cruz, by night bus once again…