Last Sunday, I signed up on a whim (and at the suggestion of a Canadian chap named Michael) for the “3-day Trek” with Condor Trekkers here in Sucre. I also roped my classmate, Marieke, (from Holland) into it as well. Waking up at 5:30 AM on Monday to run down to the agency I was expecting some nice views and dinosaur treks, as advertised… Well. The two days of trekking turned out to be about the most under-rated, under-advertised and mind-boggling two days of my hiking life. We were 6 altogether, from Holland, USA, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Our guides, Rogelio and Joaquin led us down an old Inca trail into a lush valley and over a ridge into the Marawa (Maragua in current Spanish) Crater on the first day. We started with a light breakfast in Chuquisaca, an important indigenous ceremonial point outside of Sucre. Hiking ensued from there; we watched the morning fog lift from the valley, gradually revealing a teaser of the days to come. We slogged through mud, ate lunch with three braying donkeys, marveled at the millions of years revealed in the layers of exposed earth (each color corresponds roughly with a period on the Geologic Time Scale), forded rivers, scaled loose earth where a landslide and taken out the trail, bought many bracelets from the Campesino children, and after 17 km, arrived in the town of Marawa which to all of our great joy, has one refrigerator with cold beer for purchase. We ate a delicious hot dinner and passed out for a mostly-fitful sleep, interrupted only by my very squeaky bed.
Day 2 we rose early for a hot breakfast before setting out up another side of the crater… Initially it looked like a bit of a hike out, but a quarter of the way up I realized that in fact I was going to expel all of my energy just to get half way up. Oh dear. We took a break to eat some apples and Shot Bloks while our guides conversed in Quechua with the locals before shouldering our packs again and continuing up. Passing out of the crater lent itself to more muddy trail-forging, and more breathtaking vistas of Shire-status green and deep rusty reds, peppered by cloud shadows and the occasional finca (farm) bustling with livestock and crops like maize and wheat. We arrived at the dinosaur tracks just before lunch, took them in, munched on some more delicious food, and struck out on an exposed mountainside in the middle of the incoming thunderstorm… Oops! Luckily we had Riki as our 6′-3″ scapegoat, and nobody got struck by lightning. The last part of day 2 took us through more of the richest reds and greens I’ve ever seen, and through a wonderland/labyrinths of volcanic material (impossible to capture on my camera) to finally emerge in the final town of Potolo. We purchased a fifth of grape hard-liquor (Singhani) for about $1.50, and enjoyed our rest that evening.
My recommendation for anyone making the trip is simple – “splurge” ($87 USD, 3 days all-inclusive) and go with Condor. Their guides are local and beyond knowledgeable about the natural and political history of the area. They speak English, Spanish, and Quechua, meaning they are tied to the culture and able to communicate with campesinos along the way. They know the flora and fauna, including traditional medicinal cures for stomach maladies and other afflictions. And to sweeten the deal, Condor exists to fund local projects and communities – they are 100% non-profit all of your money will go back into the community, as it should! They
also know the most beautiful routes. We unfortunately ran into an American couple who claimed to have done the same trek, but all they talked about was
how muddy the trail was and the stray dog they allowed to follow them about
12km from it’s hometown… Doh! We figured they saw something very
different. Don’t be that couple. Hire a guide so you get the richest
experience. Here are a few of my photos, sorry for the quantity, but I’ve never
seen such dynamic earth – every step it morphed into something more beautiful.