Bugs and Benefits

After a few days of various debilitating illnesses passing through Shelley, Sydney and Trinity while in Cochabamba, we decided to take it easy on the still-recovering bodies and head to Toro Toro for a day of touring in the National Park (although 4-hour each way bus rides are nothing short of exhausting). The park, established in 1989, is full of dramatic rock formations, multi-kilometer long caves, and fossilized dinosaur prints that make you feel like you have stepped into The Land Before Time and are walking around with Peetree, Little Foot and Sarah. Guides are required for visitors to explore the park, so we set off for a full day of guided tourism (quite the different experience for our independently traveling selves). We started with a morning hike to the "Cathedral Caves" which are above ground rock formations that create the perception of walking into a magnificent cathedral.

Walking into the cathedral-like caves

One major benefit of doing touristy activities is that we get to have lots of group pictures taken! 
After a relaxing lunch overlooking the distant wall of mountains lining the Cochabamba Valley, the protruding flat spines guarding Toro Toro, and the plunging moonscaped canyon in between, we headed into the second part of our day. We hiked past naturally excavated fossilized dinosaur footprints and into a 7 km long (possibly longer) cave for two hours of intense caving. We army-crawled through passages, squeezed between cracks, and rappelled down slick walls only to be surrounded by thousands of stalactites and stalagmites with the echo of a waterfall bouncing off the damp walls.

Dinosaur footprints - so cool! 

In one of the many small passageways in the caves

Our day of tourism was followed by a looong day of travel to La Paz. Our time in this amazing country was rapidly coming to an end. We unfortunately have a schedule to keep...a year is just not enough time!!! Apparently now that the other three were healthy, it was my turn to get the "bug." Why the four of us couldn't all get sick at the same time is beyond me. Coping with the infirm as before, we decided that another day of casual touristic activities would be the best way to allow for recovery while not staying cooped in the city. So we hit up the bike tour companies and booked a day on the "Death Road/The Most Dangerous Road in the World" biking from the high mountains of La Paz to the jungles of the Yungas (clearly a relaxing activity). The road gets its name from the excessive number of automobile accidents that have occurred on the narrow, curvy, rocky road flanked by sleek cliffs on the inside and a 2,000 foot plus sheer drop on the outside. There is now a paved road for general traffic and this dirt road is used mainly for tourism. We were exhilarated as we cruised down from the rugged Altiplano elevation of 4,670 meters on the smooth paved road; the wind in our faces and mountains flashing by was quite the contrast to our hiking pace experiences. After our speedy "warm up," we reached the start of the "Death Road" where we shook, rattled and (thankfully didn´t) roll as we descended deep into the lush jungle to our ending elevation of 1,120 meters. And what better way to end the adrenaline rush-filled day than with a buffet lunch and swim in a mineral pool set amongst tropical flowers??

Feeling pretty bad-ass in our biking gear 

A portion of the "Death Road" leading to Coroico

Now that we were all (almost) fully recovered we headed back on the trail. In keeping with our schedule - we needed to be back in La Paz to meet my family arriving on the 23rd - we decided to do the Choro Inca trail. This trek, like the bike ride, started high in the Altiplano and ended deep in the jungle. However, unlike the bike ride, we were able to take every magnificent step of it in (we decided we prefer it this way - you miss too much biking!!). We began the hike by climbing a pass, cresting at 4,877 mts while being greeted by angelic clouds slowly drifting through and around the elegantly rugged peaks creeping into view. The beauty was alive - encircling, beckoning, and embracing us - opening up the path to begin what would be our last hike in Bolivia.
The cloud-mountain combo was breath-taking 

Taking in the view 
We descended from the stunning rocky landscape and into a richly green valley. The fog settled in low over our heads, and with the moss-graced stone houses and walls, sheep grazing in pastures, streams cutting patterns through the grass, and horses galloping on the mountain-side it was like we stepped down into the majestic land of dragons. The jungle came upon us in the following days, and we seemed ages away from the rugged peaks and mystical valleys as we passed through the humid tropical environment. The mountains were nonetheless equally impressionable, the jungle vegetation covering every inch of the staggering walls above and below us. We thoroughly enjoyed the vibrant flowers, tangled vines and multiple waterfalls; however, the thick, hot air and plentiful bugs made us yearn for the altitude again. Upon finishing the hike, we spent the night in the adorable jungle town of Coroico, enjoying the company of our two new friends, Julie and Elianna.

Sheep grazing in the misty valley

There were little "posts" and kiosks all along the Choro Trail. 

Loved the tiki-esque huts 
We made our way back to La Paz where we reluctantly said our goodbyes to Sydney. She was a wonderful addition to our trip, and we were sad to see her go, but we are thankful to have had her with us for 5 wonderful weeks. Her jovial laugh, vigor for life, and positive vibes will be missed. However, as one visitor leaves three more arrive as my mom, sister, and aunt met us a few days ago in La Paz!! We have now traveled with them to Lake Titicaca where we enjoyed a few days touring and hiking around Copacabana, Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna.  We have crossed the border to Peru and are taking off for our next leg (with my sister as our companion for the week) before meeting a slew of family and friends in Cuzco! We are overjoyed with all the visitors we have had as of late.

It has been 8 months since we started this adventure, and we still can't believe how unbelievably memorable everything has been - Bolivia, you will be missed!

Sydney loving life :) 
me with my mom and sister at the Isla del Sol lookout 

  • Making the most of our illnesses…and enjoying being real “tourists” for once
  • Realizing the hiking times are accurate in Bolivia – what a change from Argentina where we would cut the posted times in half
  • Being able to buy things!! Since we have had visitors, we have finally been able to shop and send things home 
  • Being treated to hotels with down comforters, hot water, and buffet breakfasts! We were in heaven!
  • Sunsets and sunrises over Lake Titicaca
  • Our new Gossamer packs!! We LOVE them!! And are so happy to ditch our old, torn, faded, beat-up (but well loved) packs.
  • Hugging my family! I have missed them so much!
  • Having our visitors eat and see all the wonderful things we love about Bolivia
  • Making it to Peru. We can't wait to see what is in store for us here! 

  • Seeing the devastation caused by people pilfering the caves. Locals would cut down the stalactites thinking that they had some use and/or value only to find that they actually didn’t at all. And many of the stalactites that they cut down were over 30,000 years old!! So sad
  • Feeling like we were in Fear Factor – when we shone the light on our tent while inside we could see hundreds of crickets, spiders, and ants crawling over most of the outside of our tent. One spider on the mesh was about the size of my palm
  • Being sick during multi-hour bus rides
  • Sketchy bus rides - there was a party going on in the driver's cabin and it smelled like booze big time, so Trinity demanded that she smelled the driver's breath. He ended up being fine, but it still made us uncomfortable knowing that the other bus employees were drunk. 
  • Still no hiking distances listed, but at least the times are correct!
  • Leaving the fabulous food of Bolivia

The view of the Cochabamba valley during lunch
Shelley is still army crawling out of the little crack 

Our bike group - the "Most Dangerous Road in the World" in the background
Slightly overgrown Incan staircase
Makes sense why the road was not considered the safest...

Hiking down the Incan trail 

So green and tropical 
Beautiful jungle flowers 
The tres chicas at Lake Titicaca
Shelley and Trinity watching the sun set over Lake Titicaca
We really love our new llama sweaters - pretty snazzy eh?
Kind of reminds me of Tahoe...just much larger..and higher  
So stunning  
The sunrise over the lake the next morning (as viewed from our hotel window) 
With the Field crew on Isla de la Luna - mom (Sharon), me, Emily, Shelley, Trinity, aunt (Laura)

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes that is my sis, asking to smell the driver's breath! Made me laugh! Also, nice job making a decision based on guiding principle #1, Safety and Health! :) You chicas are all amazing! -Alexis