Maragua Crater and the Dinosaur Footprints

The plan is to be up and away early in the morning, but everyone sleeps in so things are a bit delayed – we obviously needed the rest. Not to worry apparently today is a bit easier. Brekkie is porridge (or avena or oatmeal as it is variously called) loaded with fruit and nuts. After which we take in the amazing sight of the Maragua Crater – Paul informs us that it was probably formed by a combination of tectonic compression in two directions and erosion – it is about 14km in diameter and made of about 20 rock fans that slope up at the edges. Whilst we are waiting to leave we also experience the village ‘rush hour’ consisting of a couple of children going to school and a few collections of livestock being herded back and forth – cattle, sheep, pigs and donkeys all feature. The lads help out by stopping any naughty animals making a dash for the tasty looking peas that are growing opposite the hospadaje 🙂

Then we are off on our Day 2 adventure. This starts with a short trip to a waterfall, a very small limestone cave and a rock promontory for the obligatory photos.

We then go through Maragua village where we get some attention from the local children who are just starting school for the day. Incidentally, we pass a couple of girls chatting on their mobile phone ~ even out here where there is very limited infrastructure, i.e. no running water or sewerage, mobiles are part of people’s lives!

Next we have the ‘opportunity’ to test how high and how steep the rock fans are that make up the sides of the crater – the answer very and bloody!! Eventually we get to the top where we get magnificent views of the crater and surrounding mountains.

The most amazing thing about the trek is how quickly the nature of landscape changes, one minute it feels like we’re in the limestone of the Yorkshire Dales, then all of a sudden you could be in the rolling hills of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and then you are unmistakably in the middle of the Andies – wonderful!!

After dragging ourselves out of the crater there is a bit of up and down through some isolated settlements – mostly of mud brick construction before we stop for lunch at the Huellas de Dinosaurio (Dinosaur Footprints). There are two main sets on a sloping slab of rock, one from a meat eater that walks on its hind legs that was probably 8m tall – think TRex, and another from a long necked plant eater that could have 20m long e.g. a brontosaurus. Footprints and lunch were nice but the sunbathing on the slab for a siesta was great 😉

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and eventually Roger rouses us all to continue the journey. Apart from the initial shock of an uphill section after lunch, the rest of the afternoon turns out to be a nice amble – we meet quite a few locals, especially children on their way home from school. Bernice uses these encounters to diminish Paul’s supply of chocolate peanut sweets as a means of building international relations.

Before we know it, we have arrived at our accommodation for the night which turns out to be the classroom of another local school that Condor has contributed to. It is another really small pueblo called Chullpas, overlooking a lovely river valley. After taking a few minutes to settle in and create a space for us all to sleep – by moving all the desks around – it’s time to organise a game of footie. We were really keen to involve the locals and manage to convince Sandra (great ball skills but hates passing) and Masi (a Massi in the making!) to join in a 3/4 a-side game on the concrete pitch. Half way through 3 or 4 other little uns joined in by lining one of the goal lines 😉

Paul, Sven, Phil, Nadine, Eleanor, Guenole and Huw all quickly discover how hard it is to sprint up and down a pitch at 3000m ~ great altitude training but lots of huffing and puffing!!! We managed about an hour or so before we are too knackered to carry on and the temperature drops as the sun goes down. Needless to say the local kids are still going strong!!

After a wash that involves sitting on the draining board of the communal outdoor sink we all retire to the classroom for a few games of Uno before dinner of soup, spaghetti and veg in a tomato sauce followed by bed.

None of us have a very comfortable night’s sleep – Huw needing to use the toilet a couple of times in the night, Phil snoring his head off keeping the rest of us awake, and sleeping on roll mats add to the general discomfort (oh how out of practice are we). However there is an upside to Huw’s toilet trips, he gets to see the stars in all their glory. What with no clouds, no moon, no light pollution … and being at high altitude the show was fantastic.

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