Canyons, caves and dinosaurs
28.09.2010 - 31.08.2010 25 °C
Leaving Sucre behind me and Helen got a night bus to a town called Cochabamba where we would meet Sanjay, a mate from university. That night I slept for practically zero hours and when we eventually arrived in Cochabamba I felt dog rough. After meeting with Sanjay we wandered around the town, all the while I felt like I was slowly dieing. The town itself was nice enough with the standard mix of colonial architecture and half built concrete monstrosities. Upon trying to find a laundry we happened across a parade that was snaking its way sporadically through town. Parades in south America are great beacause the costumes are just absurd. After a ham and cheese toasty we headed up to the hill that looms over the city, atop it a huge statue of Christ. At just over 33m high it is actually larger than the one overlooking Rio. The one in Rio is exactly 33m high, accounting for every year of his life. The Bolivians argue that Jesus actually lived for 33 and a bit years so have just pipped Rio´s effort for this reason.
Up early the next day we got a taxi driver to take us to the stop for buses to the mountain village of Torotoro where we would be able to see, among other things, dinosaur footprints. Unfortunately we were lucky enough to find the worst taxi driver in Bolivia who proceeded to drive around in circles, stop to ask the advice of locals, and then ignore it. The only reason we got the bus in the end was because it was nearly 2 hours late. When we eventually set off we figured we´d catch a few z´s. Upon waking up, parked at a market, me and Helen decided to leave Sanjay asleep and scavenge some breakfast. After buying some bread and a bunch of bananas we returned to the bus only to find it had left. Helen frantically asked some locals where the bus had gone without making much progress before we saw it pull out of a junction down the road. Haring after it we managed to get back on to find the locals laughing their heads off with Sanjay still asleep. Sanjay proceeded to wake up oblivious to the fact that he was nearly headed to the mountains on his own.
The village of Torotoro itself, beside the addition of electricity pylons and a large concrete hotel, looked like it had hardly changed in several centuries. Waking up reasonably early the next day we hired a guide, Pablo, and headed off into the nearby national park. It became quickly apparent that Pablo was no real expert in geology or paleantology after explaining that a green layer of sedimentary rock was so coloured due to it being formed from plants, which were green. We carried on until we reached a canyon into which we descended and found some waterfalls. Spouting from underground springs, the waterfalls provided a lush spit of vegetation in an otherwise dry canyon. We played in the water here for a while, jumping in the various pools and climbing behind the waterfalls like we were 13 again. After our fun we headed back to town for a spot of lunch.
In the afternoon we met again to go up and do some caving. This was Pablo´s second moment of brilliance. While we were waiting for a car to take us up to the caves it became apparent that Pablo had missed out a fairly vital part of the trip that morning; the dinosaur footprints, aka the real reason why anyone came to the national park at all. Reluctantly he agreed to show them to us on the way to the caves. When we eventually did see them they were actually quite impressive, not only the condition of them but also the variety. There were prints almost a meter across made from huge herbivores and smaller prints left by dinosaurs such as veloceraptors.
When we got to the cave Pablo told us that he didn´t have any helmets and he wasn´tgoing to get any either so we either had to go down with nothing to protect our melons or go home. Left with little choice we chose the first option. The cave itself while nothing too breathtaking was incredible fun. We had to traverse different caverns and passages holding on to ropes, absailing down boulders and squeezing though the tiniest gaps. If you weigh over 80kg, you would simply not have been able to do it. One thing Pablo did which impressed us though was show us how to ´play´a cave. Certain stalegtites are hollow and ring like a bell when struck. I found this immense fun and spent the next five minutes making underground beats with stalegtites of different lengths. Having managed to avoid injury we returned to the surface pretty exhilerated. Pablo maybe a pretty useless guide above ground but in a cave the lad came into his own.