A slice of adventure? No, just Bolivia...

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, July 7, 2007

I was suposed to be ready when the Swiss would show up at 11... I struggled to get up at 10, and I was a zombie, so I started with breakfast in the garden, it was perfect. Not wasted time either, as finally Lucie decided to stick around a come with us to the countryside instead of going directly to La Paz.

Because of my being late we left in the early afternoon. The group was made of French Lucie, the three Swiss Thomas, Felix and Romane, and me. We walked through Mercado Campesino, that I had not visited before, I would have liked to have more time there... but we did not know how/when exactly we could get there (where?). We took a bus that left us outside of town, on the road to Potolo. Our target was Maragua, in a crater(?), where we wanted to spend the night. The next day would have started early to hike 5-6 hours to Potolo and from there take a bus back to Sucre, in time to take another bus to the complete opposite side and visit the famed weavings market in Tarabuco, possibly sleeping there. These 2 or 3 days were planned as a very thorough exploration of the hill village weaving and life around Sucre. It went a bit differently, as you will read.

At 2pm, on the road, asking when a bus or a truck would leave for Maragua, Chataquilla or Chaunaca... we found out that there was nothing before the next morning... damn!
Note that getting that information took quite some time. In Bolivia you cannot be sure of anything, you have to organize a poll, take a representative sample of the population, ask them all the same questions, analyse the answers to verify the relevance/intelligibility of your questions, find what is the most probable correct answer, and still be completely unsure...

A truck was there, going north. After an information gathering/checking procedure, I decided it was possible to get in, hop off near Chataquilla, and then walk to Chaunaca, maybe, and possibly sleep there... but trusting the guidebook and the tourist information map, we could find food and accomodation for certain only in Maragua. I was not too keen on pushing the others to something that was potentially a "get lost freezing and starving in the mountains", so I started explaining well what  chances we were taking, but they had understood all that as well as I had, and they were ok to go.... good lads, youhouuu! Let's go!

No space in the truck.
Thanks for telling us before. I climb up to check if we could still try to crash in... no way!

After 20 more minutes of hitchhiking attempts and discussing prices with taxis, we hired a taxi to take us to Chaunaca, from where a three hour walk reached Maragua.

The drive was beautiful. We stopped in Chataquilla on a site where the virgin had appeared or commited some miracle, and that was near the highest point on our route, approaching the 4000m. From there started the local Inca Trail to Chaunaca, but we had to hurry up so we stayed in the car till Chaunaca: all the way down a very steep mountain, we were overlooking other valleys and mountains of dozens of colors: a bit like in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, there were green and browns, but also blues and purples and reds and everything...

In Chaunaca we realized the car trip had been longer than expected, and we had only an hour or 2 left of light, with a prospective 3 hours walk... the sky was ok, no wind, warm air... everybody was ok to go on. We did not buy food in Chaunaca, only a few babanas and apples, as it was certain that Maragua had a shop and restaurant and lodging.

The first part of the walk was magic. The light was not very good for pictures, as the sun had already set, but the landscape and the colors were amazing, incredible. We were in admiration, in comteplation, all the way.
After a first small pass, we realized that the crater we were going to was maybe mush further. We speeded up to try get on the top before dark, in order to see where we were going, but that failed: the next pass was not the crater yet!
We passed near or through villages, met only one soul: a boy who we gave a banana to.

Night came, and after an orientation council, we decided we were still on the right way and followed on. We came across a local with a few donkeys, coming the other way. He confirmed that Maragua was that way. Now this is very important: he also confirmed there was restaurant and lodging in Maragua. Good Man. By that time we had finished all our fruits and were seriously starting to need food.
He proposed that we waited for him to guide us there. How long? - A small hour... - mmm, next time maybe?

That last hour walking up the crater and going down into it was magic again: at over 3000m, with just a few scattered clouds, the sky was perfect. Comtemplating the universe while trying not to twist your ankles is a worthy feat, and we did well. Seriously, an exceptional sky.

We reached Maragua. Tired and starving. And I was getting seriously ill: a sore throat and a good fever, that had appeared from nowhere and built up during the afternoon!

Dead village, everything dark and closed. Found the store: closed. Some people came out. Surrealistic discussion (in short):
- is there accomodation?
- no
- so where can we sleep, we have nowhere to sleep
- you could sleep in the cabanas
- there are cabanas?
- yes, over there
- so there is accomodation then?
- yes
- ok, we will sleep in the cabanas then
- but you need the key
- ok, where is the key?
- don't know
- who knows?
- don't know
- who has the keys normally?
- us
- and you don't have them now?
- no
- can you look for them?

We had the same very very long discussion to try get some food, but  went back to the  accomodation: we had to prioritize, and  multitasking was out of the question.

Eventually they found some keys. We went to the cabanas and it took ages to try all the keys on all the doors. They could not open, but when we tried it worked the first time...
We got the kitchen open too. There there was rice and pasta left! Saved!
Of course no water in the buildings and no electricity either, but there was a tap outside. Thomas and Felix started heating water while I went with Romane and Lucie to try get some food.

Remember now how certain it was that there was a restaurant? Not telling you how gutted we were. And the store was closed. So oh joy, when we saw the people were there and could open for us!

Short lived joy. In the store, there was:
- water and sodas
- cigarettes, inflatable balloons, candles
- sweet crackers and salted crackers

Start of information gathering/checking:
- do you have food?
- no
- this is the only store here, yep?
- yes
- and you don't have food?
- no
- where can we find food, we would really like to eat
- ...
- hey, look at that: a big tin box of sardines in tomato sauce!!! Can we buy it?
- yes
- this is food, yes?
- yes
- so you have food
- yes
- ok, so we take that, plus candles, crackers, cigarettes, water, etc... Do you have vegetables?
- no
- onions?
- no
etc etc etc ....

We checked well for even a rotten onion we could dump in our old pasta found in the kitchen, but no way. The sardine box though, the last one left, was a gift from destiny: after having dreamt of a big steak in a restaurant, we were immensely happy with that treasure we had found, that gourmet delight we were going to add to our amidon intake: a tin box of sardines and tomato sauce!!!
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