Cordillera de los Frailes – Bolivia

The Cordillera de los Frailes is a mountainous region close to Sucre, in the center of Bolivia. From there lots of multiple day hikes are offered and I decided to go on a two day hike into the Cráter de Maragua – I didn’t go alone but with Patty, our guide and three french friends (of whom one really was from Manchester but lived in Montpellier). The first day took us from Chataquila (3560 meters a.s.l.) down an ancient Inca trail into a valley. Of course the views were stunning.

From there we walked back up to the village Maragua that is located in a crater. A really cool crater. One I have never seen before, with quite bizarre, curvy rock formations. It’s really strange looking, not like volcanic crater and I thought it might have been formed by a meteorite impact. Could also be a circular synclinal structure where three axes meet (I have red up on it). Would make sense since the structures look like this also outside the “crater”. Anyway, not much research has been done and the locals kind of don’t want to know or don’t want many strangers to be around. Whatever the genesis is, it’s pretty pretty. So are basically all stunning geological formations and rocks too. So many cool and colorful outcrops that reflect how the region looked like around 150 million years ago. Some of the rocks actually sounded metallic. When we hit them with another rock it sounded like we had hit a pot or something – there must be lots of tiny contents of iron or another metal in them. Apparently the region gets hit by lightning a lot and maybe there is a correlation. Very, very interesting and amazing.

We stayed in Maragua at a nice cabaña, got some nice dinner and had the best ever view to the stars that night. Incredible, I have never seen the milky way as clearly. Also saw Jupiter and even some fog. So many many stars – very beautiful. The next day we walked up some hill in the middle of the crater – a very nice lookout and the location of the village’s graveyard. Again, a very strange but cool place. After that we hiked out of the crater and towards Quila Quila where we go picked up and brought back to Sucre.

It has been great and fun two days, and very informative too. Patty answered all our questions about the local people, their culture and the how the “Spanish” and the indigenous people get along (or not). The Cordillera de los Frailles is home to the Jal’Qa people, who speak Quechua and are very solitary. We met very old women who just basically live by themselves, in tiny houses made of mud stone. The have some cows or sheep, a small lot where they grow corn and that’s it. Not so sure how they spend their evenings without TV, the internet or even a book. Just seem to be following nature’s rhythm in the middle of nowhere. Crazy to see. They also agree with low key, sustainable tourism where they profit of, too – but without destroying their culture and traditions. It was very nice to meet some of those people and be able to talk to them. It’s a different world out there and I am very grateful I got to see it.

I also talked a lot of Spanish those two days. I know, I am not really talking nicely or correct. But it was the only way to communicate with the guide and it worked out. One of the French girls spoke Spanish and English, so she helped out and translated. Most of the time I spoke “Frengspañol” – a mixture of French, English and Spanish. Due to all the French at some point I really forgot if a word was Spanish or French – and in the end it didn’t matter when I said: “Hay un baño ó puedo usar el baño natural, porque necesito de faire la pipi pretty urgently!”


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