Inca trail, Crater of Maragua (Bolivia)

We had already decided that we wanted to hike before arriving in Sucre (Bolivia’s judicial capital) but we hadn’t as yet chosen one.

We did some research and came across a not-for-profit organisation called ‘Condor trekers’ (which so happened to be located in a vegetarian cafe too…bonus!). Anyway , although we prefer ‘do it yourself’ hiking, after chatting to the very friendly staff, we decided that the three day ‘Inca trail, Crater of Maragua’ trek was for us and that we were happy to contribute to the indigenous communities. Condor trekers was founded by an Australian and focuses on helping local indigenous communities with resources such as water, building materials, schools etc.

Day 1

Set off early morning in a minibus with 9 of us including two guides, one of which (Patricia) was local and spoke Spanish and the other guide (Naiomi) was French and volunteering for Condor treking, this was her first three day hike as a guide. We drove up to Sucre’s highest elevation chapel (3,500metres) at Chataquila, where we had our breakfast before heading down the Inca Trail, walking beside the river Reverio with stunning views of ancient rock formations. We stopped a few times to hear some interesting historical facts about past conflicts between indigenous and Spanish, some of which was quite graphic and on the whole, were able to understand what was being said in Spanish.

After stopping for a wholesome and delicious lunch, we crossed the river using an extremely procarious looking bridge. We had to cross one at a time, due to the bridge leaning very dangerously in the middle to one side and having several wooden slats missing. Once safely across, we stopped for a brief paddle. Unfortunately the current was too strong and unsafe to swim.

We then hiked into the crater of Maragua, this involved traversing several cliff faces. One small section in particular ‘referred to by our guide as ‘Death trail’ consisted of a narrow ledge of no more than one foot wide on loose rubble with a 50 metre drop immediately below. Vanessa froze midway across the ten metre ledge after trying to hold onto the cliff face and causing a small landslide. Jon came to the rescue and held onto Vanessa’s hand, guiding her across. After several nervous minutes for a number of the group, we all made it safely across that section if the track.

After a long but incredibly impressive day, passing indigenous communities, glimpsing mountain ranges and finally arriving within the crater itself we made it to our nights accommodation in the tiny village of Maragua just after night fall.
After another delightful meal, we were treated to some local traditional dancing and music, before settling down for a well earned night’s sleep.

Day 2

After breakfast we set off towards a nearby gorge, with an impressive waterfall. Walking along a narrow ledge above the gorge, we were shown a cave-like structure with rocks resembling giant teeth. We were informed that it was called ‘Garganta del Diablo’ (Devils Throat) due to the noise it makes when the wind rushes through it.

After this, we took a short walk to a humble local farmhouse, which included a self-made dinosaur museum consisting of artifacts dug up by the owner. He offered us some home made honey (delicious) and chatted to us about his findings in the area. We then took another short walk up to a local cemetery. This was on the top of a hill as the indigenous locals believe the dead will be closer to heaven.

After these short excursions, we set off upwards out of the crater. This entailed a couple of hours uphill, although the walk was made more interesting by Patricia who took us through a maze of narrow dried up river beds, each well over 10ft tall, as part of the ascent.

 We stopped at the top of a hill for a blustery lunch and then headed off ahead. Shortly after lunch we reached a sloping rockface. On closer inspection we established that the intermittent holes in the rock face were actually dinosaur footprints, the largest of which were well over 1m in width (apparently the 2nd biggest ever found after some recently found in Australia at over 1.5m).

Reaching the top of the crater we were treated to yet more spectacular views, particularly of the sunset as the day drew to a close. We arrived at our nights accommodation a little before 7pm and it was already dark. After a slight delay in locating our hostal owner and enough beds, we ate a traditional soup supper and all hit the sack after another long day.

Day 3

Most of the group were pleased to learn that day 3 consisted of very little walking. After another amazing breakfast we all walked a short distance to a nearby farm, where we were treated to a thorough examination of an unwell pregnant cow, followed by a demonstration and an opportunity to try our hands at traditional weaving of sheep wool (some with more success than others).

From there we had a 2.5 hour drive by minibus back to Sucre along some delicate mountain passes. Arriving back at Condor Trekers base in Sucre we were all treated to a final delicious vegetarian lunch, before all saying our goodbyes.
In summary, this was an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable 3 day experience. Although it may be possible to do the same route solo, we have no hesitation in recommending Condor trekers as the company to use to get the maximum value from your hiking experience.