One of the top activities to do while visiting Sucre, Bolivia is the trek to the Maragua crater with a visit to the dinosaur footprints. We decided to use Condor Trekkers, a non-profit organization that distributes its profits back to the community and relies heavily on volunteers. We didn’t bother looking at other agencies because the staff were great, they had a solid reputation, and they served the best granola with fruit in their adjoining cafe bar!
We paid for nine nights in Sucre where two of those were actually in Potosi and on the trek – sucks to double pay but we didn’t want to lose our fabulous room at La Dolce Vita. La Dolce Vita has been one of the best hostels for us in South America. Our room was huge, the hot water was abundant and the internet was fast. Our only complaint was that the kitchen was really small and meant that others were milling around waiting. We actually met some great people that way and we formed a group for our Condor Trekkers hike outside the kitchen!
Wayne also decided to sign up for 5 days of Spanish school at Fenix since there wasn’t a lot for him to explore in Sucre during the day. Most of the people staying at our hostel were either volunteering or studying Spanish long term. Sucre was very similar to Antigua, Guatemala – loads of backpackers studying Spanish in a beautiful colonial town and countless cafes with WiFi where students gather in the afternoon for homework. It was perfect for us because I could work from outside the hostel while Wayne studied.
Sucre, the Constitutional Capital
Sucre, also known as “The White City” due to the fact that many of the buildings in the old town must be painted white is the Constitutional Capital of Bolivia and the seat of the Supreme Court. All other government activity takes place in sprawling La Paz some twelve hours away by bus. It sits at an altitude of 2810 meters giving a year round cool and temperate climate which we found to be perfect during the day with chilly evenings. The cities principle 25 de Mayo plaza is one of the most beautiful in South America (Tarija being our favorite so far), and the surrounding architecture provided us with some great photo shoots including the Chuquisaca Governorship Palace, the House of Freedom and the Metropolitan Cathedral – numerous churches were scattered throughout the city, with our favorite, Convento de San Felipe de Neri having a rooftop terrace giving amazing views of the city.
Condor Trekkers modified their program so we could do the 3 day trek in 2 days ensuring I wouldn’t have to miss a day of work nor the others missing out on Spanish. On Saturday morning my alarm was scheduled to go off at 4:20am for our 5am meet up at the Condor Cafe. I woke up startled at 4:48am, we rushed to get ready and were grateful that we had packed the night before. We made it to the cafe just in time for the one and a half hour bus journey to our starting point at Chataquila. Once there we had a small, but delicious breakfast before hitting the four kilometer pre-Hispanic route known as The Inca Trail.
Our trek carried on via Socobamba to the Maragua crater where we would spend the night. The trek was hot in the sun and cool in the shade – I guess being above 13,000 feet will do that. Our guides, Henri and Hugo, were fantastic and made sure all the trekkers in our group safely arrived at the huge crater housing two small villages. I wasn’t sure what to expect because when someone says “crater’” I immediately think of a volcano, but this is not the case with the Maragua crater. It was supposedly created from erosion and the shifting of tectonic plates millions of years ago with sea fossils still being found in the area. Accommodation was shared cabins, far exceeding expectations with seating area and kitchen, although not required as the guides prepared a fantastic dinner for us! The afternoon was enjoyed chilling out with a few beers from the only store, and playing football against the local kids who were so excited to see us. After the sun went down our guides got together for a dueling ‘pan pipe’ session, and with little else to do it made for a much deserved early night.
Day two involved an uphill hike out of the crater to the dinosaur prints, created some six to seven million years ago close to the village of Ninu Mayu. I’m not sure I’m totally sold on the authenticity of these prints, but I obviously can’t prove otherwise! Some looked like holes in the ground and others were a bit too perfect! I didn’t really care if they were real or not because the trekking was fantastic – we stopped so much that Wayne couldn’t take off ahead of the group and leave me gasping the entire day. I really like trekking with others instead of just Wayne – sorry honey!
Lunch was another colorful spread, setting us up for the hike out following the Pilcomayo River to the village of Potolo. We were provided with more magnificent views of the picturesque valleys, passing farmhouses and small villages where locals were going about their Sunday business.
The drive back to Sucre took us through the gorgeous valley of the Rio Potolo and over the Cordillera de Los Frailes mountain range. This dirt road would have been perfect for mountain biking, or at least the long down section! We were soon in Sucre and arrangements were made to get together for a large pizza group dinner that evening – a perfect end to a perfect weekend.
July 21 – July 30 2013