17 February 2019
Dew still coated the rainfly of my tent when I woke up early this morning in a race with the sun to see who would be the first to rise. After rubbing my eyes into a semi-awake yet still blurry state and shoving my arms into my puffy and my feet into socks and hiking boots, I unzipped the tent door and peeked outside. Nothing but grey mist greeted me – our campsite had been invaded in the night by clouds, heavy with the water vapor that they had already deposited over my tent, as well as the many grey-green shrubs and spindly cacti that dotted the landscape. I could barely make out the scattered tents and bundled forms of the other participants further downhill, and could only imagine the canyon and vast mountainous landscape that lay below. The whole world was hushed, motionless in anticipation of the harsh rays of sun that, at 10,000 ft above sea level, would soon work to bleach everything in their grasp, including my already sunburnt skin. The air at dawn was cool and fresh – a salve and a balance to the crisped days. All possibility of viewing the sunrise gone with the presence of the oppressive cloud cover, I retreated back into the cocoon of my sleeping bag and my thoughts.
Our camp, perched on limestone and scree and semi-sheltered by two rock formations on either side, featured expansive views of Torotoro and the painted layers of rock that, eroded by wind and water, revealed the national park´s history. 120 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed this land, and if you go back even farther, this landscape wasn´t mountainous at all, but flat and covered with water. Fossilized dinosaur footprints and the layers of multicolored sediment are the only remnants of those times – the only way we know that they ever existed.
The bus ride back into Cochabamba and civilization passed quickly as pop music wafted through the dust kicked up from the road and I relished in the thought that – for the first time in four days, I was being transported by something other than my own legs and willpower. I thought back to that morning, and my early rise to try and catch the sun – my desire to seize every moment in Bolivia still palpable on the tip of my tongue like the earthy taste of coca leaves. Although the clouds stole away the sun´s delicate first rays, they gave me something in return: a chance to reflect on my thoughts, and the ways in which I leave marks on the world – and the marks the world will leave on me.