(This series was originally written in email form during the summer of 2009. Here it is finally in blog format.)
Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 1:22pm
Last weekend was our midterm trip with Foundation for Sustainable Development. We went to the small town of Toro Toro, about a six hour drive from Cochabamba and just went on a ton of adventures all weekend. This is the area of Bolivia that has dinosaur footprints of all shapes and sizes just out in the open where you can walk right up to them. This wealth of natural history was only discovered about 30 years ago when the top layer of soil was blown away to reveal the fossilized footprints of all sorts of pre-historic animals. There were a variety to observe; from small bipeds footprints to giant quadruped footprints as long as I am tall, and everything in between.
We went on an adventure tour of the biggest cave in Bolivia. This wasn’t just any cave tour, but rather an underground adventure comprised of propelling down cliffs and squeezing through cracks. I was too cheap to buy a headlamp, so I had to climb around down there with a flashlight in my teeth, trying not to fall and kill myself, which almost happened more than once. If you know how clumsy I am, try to picture me climbing up and down super wet and slippery rocks in the dark. Yeah. I only really slipped once, but I was left dangling by a rope off the edge of a cliff over an underground river while my friends were busy taking pictures of stalactites. In the deepest darkest part of the cave, we all sat down and turned our lights off so we could know real darkness. It was crazy; I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. After we somehow squeezed through a series of tunnels about 18 inches tall, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of a waterfall flowing into an underground lake.
The next day we climbed down into a canyon that had a series of waterfalls pouring out the side into the stream that snaked along the bottom of the canyon. It was hard work getting down there, and even harder work getting back up, but it was totally worth it to be able to take a refreshing dip in the beautiful pools ringed by boulders. I even found a secluded pool all to myself and just floated for a good 15 minutes appreciating the view of the sky. The water temperature was so cold that once I got out, I couldn’t even use my hands to peel an orange.
The third day in Toro Toro we hiked down into another stunning canyon and to another gorgeous waterfall, where we also took a dip. I don’t have many rules in life, but one of them is that if I see a beautiful waterfall, I’d better get in. That rule has not been broken. Our weekend in Toro Toro was unforgettable, and not only because I got horribly sick on the bus ride home (and actually threw up in my own boot on a moving bus – but that’s another story). I was blessed to be able to experience such a naturally beautiful place with such a fun diverse group of people.