From Rurre I flew (almost) straight to Cochabamba to go to the Torotoro national park. A short two hour stop in La Paz told me that I’d already lost all acclimatizing that I may have built up during the weeks I spent there prior. A pity, as I was left constantly grasping for more air. Luckily the village of Torotoro is quite low, at only 2700m of elevation.
Our first outing was to the town of Ita, a serious of tunnels and rock formations some twenty kilometers outside of town. Once I got out of the car, a familiar feeling overcame me and I asked at what altitude we were.. We had climbed to 3700m again, which rendered the walking a bit more challenging and a little lass walk in the park than expected. The tunnels were very pretty though and the few absolutely stunning. After cruising through the rocks a while, we started to be tested by squeezing through some tight little openings and climbing up some steep ladders which ended in the middle of more rocks that needed climbing. Since we had also booked the spelunking for the afternoon we just considered this the warm up for our afternoon activity.
If you like climbing into caves the Umajalanta cave is for you. It is a rough and fun exploration to do. Only about 350 meters of the in total 7km deep cave are accessible to tourist, mostly because you need to walk through some hip-deep water if you want to continue deeper into the cave. Those 350m however are already great fun, sometimes very tight and sometimes quite exposed.
Unfortunately this cave has been left untended until recently, so that many of the previous tourists collected a stalagmite or four to take back home. In consequence many of them are broken and one can only imagine how pretty it must’ve been for the first visitors exploring this cave. You do get to see what our guide told us was “broccoli stalagmite”, which are stalagmites forming due to the humidity in the air resembling vaguely a cauliflower.. Why they picked broccoli rather than cauliflower as a name, we’ll never know.
A tiny highlight at the end of the exploration is the water pond, which contains some blind cave fish that can actually be seen, and much to my surprise water striders. Actually there’s a lot in that cave that shouldn’t by default be in a cave: mosquitoes, branches, fish.. It becomes clear why, once you start your way back.. During the rainy season a giant river must be flowing into the cave, shaping the stones and dragging in drift wood. After about two hours the fun is over and you make it safely back out into the sunlight.. slightly more dirty than when you came in. There’s no avoiding it as there are passages that you do need to cross on your stomach.
When we got back home, a party was going on. Once again I’ve stumbled into town just at the right moment to experience their annual celebration. This time was special though as we’d met a semi-local (a foreigner living there for a couple of years) who took us to a chicheria to see how the Bolivians really party. A part from the fact that we had to drink their fermented corn drink, chicha, it was absolutely amazing. Small groups kept stopping by to play the charango and one of the guests would usually join in to sing. We dance, we laughed and we offered a lot of the chicha to Pachamama so we wouldn’t have to drink it.