This weekend, I took a 6 hour bus ride to a tiny pueblo in Potosí, Bolivia called Torotoro. Torotoro is only accessibly by excruciatingly long and bumpy ground transportation. Getting there requires a ride on an unpaved road that goes right through riverbeds. The ride is truly beautiful as vehicles pass through the mountains of Potosí. On my way to Torotoro, I saw lorakeets flying through the open valleys, mountain sheep climbing steep rock faces, and wild horses bathing in the riverbeds.
This weekend was the Feast of Santiago in Torotoro, the largest fiesta of the year in all of the Potosí district of Bolivia. I can´t say I went to Torotoro to see the fiesta (in fact, I tried to avoid it, and would have if my schedule permitted), but I did enjoy watching and participating in the traditional dancing, listening to the music, and viewing the parades of colorfully dressed women dancing through the streets. The fiesta was interesting, but not something I would go to again if I had the choice. It consisted of 3 days straight of people drinking extraordinary amounts of chicha to the point of passing out drunk in the streets. The worst part of the fiesta to witness occurred on the final day, when hundreds of men fought in the unpaved streets of the pueblo. Their faces covered in blood as they hit each other with brass knuckles and slashed the bare chests of their neighbors and family members. It´s said that the year ahead will be plentiful if someone dies during the fighting; I didn´t want to stay around long enough to know whether or not we will have a good year.
The true sights to see in Torotoro are the natural wonders located in the Torotoro National Park. My first day there, I traveled with a guide to the major sites where dinosaur footprints are located. Torotoro hosts the largest number of dinosaur footprints in the world, with 2500 already exposed and many more surely existing in the vast un-excavated terrain.
Torotoro is also home to a profound canyon called Waca Senq'a. On my second day, I hiked down into the canyon and bathed in the waterfalls that appear to have their origins in the heavens. I also hiked to a place in the park where rocks are covered in primitive cave paintings done in animal blood. Unlike the famous cave paintings of Lascaux, the paintings in Torotoro are extremely simple, consisting of little more than shapes and lines depicting the mountains and rivers of Torotoro.
On my final day, I descended meters into the earth through the caverns of Humajalanta, the largest cavern in Bolivia. I absolutely loved this part of my journey. To make it to the lowest part of the cavern, where a lagoon exists filled with prehistoric-era blind fish, travelers must repel, climb, crawl, and wiggle through narrow passages that lead deeper and deeper below the ground. Along the way, I saw majestic stalactite and stalagmite formations that grow just 1cm every 100 years. After spending about 3 hours deep underground, I ascended wanting to go right back in!!
So went my journey into a park documenting millions of years into the past. Pictures to come soon, stay tuned!