In which we relax in the white city, and then backpack through the Maragua Crater.
Sucre is the constitutional capitol of Bolivia, and it’s center is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city rose to importance in the 1500s as silver mining boomed, and is home to the second oldest university in the Americas, Francis Xavier College of Chuquisaca, which is still operating. In the 1800s, Sucre became known as a center for progressive thought and a home base for independence movements across South America.
We find a charming alojamiento and proceed to stay longer than intended in Sucre, which indeed, we’d been warned might happen.
We spend much of our time in town wandering the streets. Every day, we stop at Mercado Central for fresh fruit and veg, and sometimes lunch or dinner. We discover a number of local delicacies including J’s favorite, higado revuelto (liver scrambled with eggs), and C’s favorite, a sesame juice similar to horchata. We take two notable trips out of town:
1: Cal Orcko Parque Cretacico!
A factory near Sucre happened upon a slab which contains the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world!
Visitors are allowed in only for 2 hrs per day, when they kindly stop the factory operations still happening around the wall, and give tours. The prints are some 65 million years old, and surprisingly distinct.
Our inner 10-year-olds geek out at the prints and at the life-size dinosaur sculptures, real eggs and bones at the museum above.
The view over Sucre from Cal Orcko.
2: Backpacking through the Maragua Crater.
We take a local bus to Chataquilla and take off on a three-day trek down the Inca Trail through the small campesino towns of Maragua (status as a meteor crater: hotly debated. But check it out as seen from google maps!), Niñu Mayu, and Potolo.
The Inca Trail is one of the thoroughfares that took Incans down from the altiplano and into the lowlands. The trail is paved in stone, and feels a bit like the yellow brick road – a neat, nicely paved path winding through spectacular and sometimes surreal wild scenery.
The first day is long. We descend from Chataquilla into the Ravelo river valley and meander along the namesake’s river. J, taking a break:
In the late afternoon, we find the faint path that climbs steeply (only mildly treacherous, on scree) out of the valley and climbs up into a landscape dotted with ancient pre-Incan terraces.
The climb continues. There are several false summits. We are slightly distracted by the awesome scenery, but not quite enough. It is dusk by the time we crest and descend into Maragua Crater.
We climb a hill outside of town and find a very picturesque campsite for the turtle.
The next morning, we take a side trip to check out Garganta del Diablo (Throat of the Devil).
Villagers say they sometimes hear voices from deep within the Devil’s throat waterfall, but it’s probably C, as captured in the above photo.
We continue onwards, climbing out of the Maragua Crater and through some hills and valleys to Niñu Mayu.
Where we find more dinosaur footprints!
Campesinos we pass behave predominantly in one of two ways: Either they wave and stop their work to come chat with us, asking us questions about where we’re from and what we think of their country, or they glare at us malevolently for intruding. At Niñu Mayu, we meet Caroico, a chatty man who proudly shows us all of the dinosaur footprints in the area. When he finds out that were camping there for the evening, he invites us to his home, feeds us sopa de mani (peanut soup), and treats us to a wonderful evening of chatting about Bolivian politics with his brother, Sebastian, while he interjected with tunes on his charango, a local instrument similar to a ukelele, but with 10 strings.
The next morning, we climb out of the Niñu Mayu valley and complete our trek with an incredibly picturesque few hours strolling through farmland with mountain views and descending the last valley to the larger town of Potolo, where we hop an afternoon bus back to Sucre. A fantastic trip. More photos:
Stunning red and blue stripes of earth.
A curious burro.
Next stop, Cochabamba and Toro Toro National Park. Caves and Canyons and yes, even more dinosaur footprints!!
Lots of love,
C and J