Hiking to the Maragua Crater
Before arriving in Sucre, we had read on the Internet much about the Maragua Crater. We stopped by a couple a travel agencies in Sucre to ask for more information and were surprised by the high prices. Moreover, most agencies told us they could only organise a day trip to the crater as we were already in the low season and there were not many tourists willing to trek for several days in the crater. Therefore, we decided to organize a 2 days trek by ourselves. Here was our plan:
- Day 1: bus from Sucre to Chataquilla; walk from Chataquilla to Maragua. Night in the crater
- Day 2: walk from Maragua to the dinosaur footprints – Niñu Mayu – and then to Potolo
Our organizational issues
Our plan did eventually worked out, but we encountered some… Organisational difficulties! In our defense, we found very few information on the Internet to help us organizing this trek by ourselves, so we had to improvise a little bit!
Buying a gas bottle in Sucre – a harder task than finding a good croissant in Germany!
We wanted to find a gas bottle in order to be able to cook during our trek. Well, let’s say that if you are in the same situation than us, don’t get your hopes too high. We spent almost 4 hours walking from on side of the city to the other side, following tips of locals about places where we could find gas bottle. In the end, we just gave up. BUT, in our desperate search, we visited to the local market located a little bit outside of the city center, and it was a really nice and lively place. There, we asked almost every 100 meters where we could buy our gas bottle. Generally, the asked person pointed a direction and gave us some instructions – of course in Spanish! We probably went up and down all the market’s streets… And we finally bought food that we could eat without cooking first! 😉
Going to Chataquilla – a harder task than finding a good beer in France!
On our first hiking day, we encountered our second difficulty. We knew the trek was supposed to start in the city of Chataquilla – therefore we asked in our hostel how we could go there. The manager advised us to go to Sucre bus terminal to catch a bus to Chataquilla. However, once there, we learned that there was no bus going from the terminal to Chataquilla. One person pinpointed a location on our map – a big roundabout close to the Hospital Universitario – where a bus was supposedly leaving at 09:30 am for Chataquilla. We arrived there shortly before 09:30am, after getting stuck in traffic jam for almost 45 minutes in the market where we were searching our gas bottle yesterday! Sadly, some locals told us the bus had already left as it was full…
We were really starting to wonder if we would make it today until Chataquilla! We knew we had a full day walking in front of us, and it was already 10:00am. But we were determined to get there and after asking once again locals, we discovered that there was another bus leaving to Chataquilla not far away at a place called “Parada a Ravelo“. Indeed, we found a bus there and we booked two seat without being really sure that it was going to Chataquilla… After waiting in the bus alley – with our two huge rucksacks and locals keeping going in and out the bus – for around one hour, some 15 additional persons somehow managed to squeeze themselves in the bus alley. As there were already at least 10 persons standing there, we let you imagine how much place in person had. The drive to Chataquilla took us approximately one hour. For Kai, it was probably the worst ride in his life: he was too big to stand fully and one person who sat on a bucket was using his legs as a backrest! Let’s say that we were happy to arrive…
Water or our naivety…
It was there that we encountered our next problem: we (very) naively thought that Chataquilla was a small city. Well, it’s not. It’s just a random place, in the middle of nowhere, with a small church at the top of a hill. And we had planned to buy water there for our trek. Soooo, we started our trek 3 hours later than what we would have liked, with less than one liter water for two persons. I am normally a quite nice person, not too stressed, but there is one thing which drives me immediately crazy: being thirsty. I simply cannot stand it! Kai tried to cheer me up and told me we would certainly find a place to buy some water on the way. But I was not very receptive to his moral support. However, the beautiful view we had on the crater managed to distract me a little from my thirst.
After walking two hours down on a beautiful Inca trail, we arrived at a small house where we had to pay 10B/person for the use of the Inca trail. From there, we starting our assent to reach the crater’s edge. And for my greatest pleasure and relief, we found a small shop in the way and bought there 2 liters of water that we drank in 5 minutes. After buying another 2 liters bottle, we continued our way toward the crater’s edge. From the end of the Inca trail, it took us approximately 2 hours to reach it. There, an amazing view awaited us: the crater’s bottom was red, while its edge was green. It looked a little bit like a giant flower. We again had to pay 10BOB/person in order to enter the crater. From there, it took us around 1 hour to get down to Maragua, a small village in the crater’s center. The sun was slowly but surely making its way down, so we found a good looking spot to set our tent.
Too many stones and too few knifes!
There, we faced our last difficulties of our long day! As we tried to set our tent, we realized that the bottom of the crater was completely made of stone. We ended up using some stones to stabilize a little our tent as we couldn’t get any of the tent pegs inside of the ground… It was a very enjoyable hasard than it did not rain this night and that there was practically no wind!! As our tent was set, we thought that our day’s struggles were finally behind us. We fetched the food we had planned for the dinner and realized, once again, that today was not our lucky day. Indeed, we had left our knife in our small backpack… in Sucre! Luckily, Kai has a lot of imagination and made a “knife” out of a plastic card the size of a credit card. It was not very sharp, but it worked well enough to allow us to eat our dinner. After this eventful day, we went exhausted to bed and slept like babies 😀
From Maragua to Potolo
After a good breakfast, we started the climb to the other edge of the crater. Be aware that the way out of the crater is not really clear… We had to use Maps.me to get the global direction of the path before finally finding it half way through our way up. We crossed several herds of sheep, admired for a last time the crater and the small houses nested in its center, before taking the direction of “Niñu Mayu”. There, you can see dinosaur footprints embedded in a sloping section of rock exposed by an earthquake some years ago. It took us around 2 hours from Maragua to reach the dinosaur footprints, where we had to pay an entrance fee of 20BOB/person.
The surrounding landscape on the way was amazing, with mountains’ colors ranging from a dark purple to a surprising orange. Some stones’ shapes were so symmetrical that they looked human made! After a relaxing break at the footprints, we slowly made our ascent to the top of the mountain. Once again, we couldn’t find any path to walk on, but we knew the direction we had to head in thanks to Maps.me. This application is really a life saver, we used it as well during many of our hikes in Chile!
When we arrived at the top of the uphill part, we could actually see in the distance Potolo, our goal of the day. We had our lunch there, under the shadow of the tree with a beautiful view on the valley. Regarding the lunch, one peace of advice: there is no place to buy food on this hike, which means you can only buy small snacks in Maragua. So if you plan to do this trek, bring enough food with you – at least enough for two lunches and one dinner!!
The way to the city was very easy, a large unpaved road descending slowly through the valley in the direction of Potolo. We arrived in Potolo around 03:00pm and luckily caught the last collectivo leaving for Sucre. If you plan to spend a night in Potolo before heading back to Sucre, you can take your time and leave around 09:00 or 10:00am from Maragua. However, if you plan to be back in Sucre on the same day, be aware that the last collectivo leaves Potolo around 03:00pm. We started hiking around 08:30am, didn’t do many breaks and we arrived just in time to catch the collectivo. So if you are a slow walker or plan to do many breaks, leave early from Maragua! We arrived at 05:00pm in Sucre, happy to be back in our nice accommodation.
How to go to Chataquilla – the starting place of the trek
The best solution is probably to go to the Hospital Universitario. Once there, ask locals where the bus leaves exactly. It is supposed to leave every day at 09:30am, but we aware that it might leave earlier if it is already full, so arrive in advance!
Here are the entry fees we had to pay on our way:
- Inca Trail: 10BOB/person
- Maragua crater: 10BOB/person
- Nanu Mayu: 20 BOB/person
If you don’t have a tent or you want to stay in a proper accommodation in Maragua, you don’t need to book anything. Just ask anyone in the village, they will tell you where you can find a room. You will have to pay around 150BOB for a double room, including dinner and breakfast on the next day.
Here are the transportation costs from and to Sucre:
- Collectivo Sucre – Chataquilla: 12-16 BOB/Person
- Collectivo Potolo – Sucre: 13BOB/person