Parque Nacional Torotoro — Part 1: Dinosaurs! Fossils!

28 Sep

Being a teacher has certain pros and cons. One of the major and most obvious pros of such a profession is the large chunks of vacation time sprinkled throughout the year. On the days when your students are flinging their own feces around the room and dragging their knuckles on the floor, you can just take a deep breath, step back, and tell yourself, “I have a nice long break coming up real soon. And _________ (fill in the blank with your South American adventure of choice) will so be worth all of this insanity.”

Yes, my first 4 day weekend as a teacher was definitely worth the craziness that comes along with spending all day every day with 15-16 year olds. I went along with a few other teachers to Parque Nacional Torotoro, a stunning and spectacular Bolivian gem in the Andes. The park is at 2700 meters and is surrounded by 3500-meter-high mountains. We flew into Cochabamba, my newest favorite city ever. From there, we were picked up by our knowledgable and charming guide, Charles, for the 5 hour drive to Torotoro. On the drive up, Charles stopped on the side of the road and took us on a small hike that led to what he believes are pre-Incan pictographs. Having discovered the site independently, he claimed that he almost never showed these drawings to tourists. I don’t even care if he tells that to everyone; it was a pretty incredible thing to have somebody share with you.

These thorns here I discovered along the way. Bolivia is so badass.

The drive up into the mountains was breathtaking. With scenery like this, 5 hours passed quickly.

There is not a shortage of amazing things to see in Torotoro (thus, more than one blog post will be set aside for the trip. Too many pictures!) On day one, we ventured up to Humajalanta, the largest cave in Bolivia. The hike up to the cave was about 2 hours, and all along the way were fossilized footprints of biped and quarduped dinosaurs from the cretaceous period 120 million years ago. 

One of our guides, Pablo, shows the tourists what’s up.

I guess I’m running with the dinosaurs here. Or something like that.

If you get bored and would like to ID these dino tracks, here’s a nifty guide for you!

While the dinosaur tracks were incredible, the hike would have still been beautiful without them.

Here is a house we saw on the way up the hill, complete with corn stored in a tree.

Marine fossils stuck up on a mountain from when the whole area was submerged under water were also on the agenda for the day. This place is seriously a scientist’s playground.

Here you can see all the different layers in the earth formed back  when this particular piece of land was horizontal. Given enough time and enough turmoil, anything is possible.

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