After months of COVID-related construction and project delays, the Toro Toro runway is open for business! Local residents and Mano a Mano personnel are marking the completion of this exceptionally challenging project on May 21, 2021.
Traditionally, the dedication of a project would involve a grand opening with speeches by officials, a brass band, baskets of confetti to sprinkle on everyone’s head, leis for special guests, and an abundant supply of chicha (corn-based, fermented drink).
What a Dedication Event For a Mano a Mano Project Looked Like Before COVID-19
Trying Out the New Toro Toro Airstrip With the Mano a Mano Plane
But this is not a traditional time. COVID continues to ravage Bolivia; even small gatherings are too high-risk currently. (COVID-19 infections in Bolivia are currently at their peak — the highest daily average reported — now at 2,440 new infections reported each day.) Nevertheless, with the project complete we are marking the importance of this project to the entire region. Mano a Mano’s recent test flight demonstrates that the runway is prepared for visitors.
Why is this Runway so Important to Toro Toro and to Mano a Mano?
Toro Toro’s location, halfway between Bolivia’s High Valley cities of Cochabamba and its judicial capitol Sucre, provides the only safe aircraft landing location for hundreds of miles. If a flight emergency happens, this runway will be available to any aircraft flying in the region, including ours.
Although Toro Toro has a small hospital, specialty care and complex surgery require hospitalization in a larger city. Physicians who practice at the Toro Toro hospital have told our pilot that their highest priority need before COVID was for access to an urban hospital for high-risk deliveries. The re-built airstrip will make it possible for Mano a Mano aircraft to airlift these patients to Cochabamba.
Toro Toro’s nearby Parque Nacional, with its more than 2,500 dinosaur footprints, hosts over 25,000 visitors yearly. Mano a Mano hopes to raise revenue to support its health response programs by scheduling regular flights for paying passengers to the new airstrip. Toro Toro’s public officials estimate that tourist visits will double within two years, adding economic opportunities to this remote region.
Mano a Mano travel groups often include a side trip to the Toro Toro Parque Nacional, a site that Bolivians refer to as the Bolivian Jurassic Park. Debbie Hadas visited the park in 2018 along with other Minnesota teachers who traveled to Bolivia to deliver workshops for public school teachers.
Having overcome the nearly insurmountable challenges encountered in building this runway, proud but exhausted Nuevo Mundo personnel were ready for a break with their families in Cochabamba. But before leaving Toro Toro with their equipment, they completed one final task: raising the sign that identifies the airstrip.