The Shit Hiker’s Guide to Maragua

I don’t know if you picked it up from our constant harping about it friends, but we totally friggin’ nailed the Inka Trail earlier this trip. Hiked the LIVING SHIT out of it. The Inka Trail was a bit of roadside trash and we were a Clean Up Australia crew, in that It was disposed of. It’s hard not to be cocky when you’re that good at hiking. SURE, it may seem to some like you’re just putting one foot in front of the other, but to us seasoned pros, statements like that smack of someone telling a brain surgeon that ‘you just cut open the noggin and have a dick around’.

This was the sort of high-and-mighty headspace we found ourselves in when Dallas, our Canadian, flame red, man-bunned friend gave us the chance of tackling Maragua, a small Inka trail hike that winds through a valley and ends at a natural crater formation a couple of hours out of Sucre. A short little jaunt with only the most minor ups and downs, a Saturday and Sunday stroll sounded the biscuits.

We began early on Saturday, seeing the crisp sunshine of 7am for the first time in living memory. I think we can all agree that 7am is a dickhead time of day that should only be used in case of fire, but for whatever reason Bolivians choose to actively use it on weekends. We had to take a bus out to the starting point of the trail, and the only time it leaves is at said fuckwit timeslot. We found the bus and bought our tickets, meeting a couple of Russians along the way that were doing the same hike.

Fishy life rule: If your shadow is taller than you are, you shouldn't be out of bed
Fishy life rule: If your shadow is taller than you are, you shouldn’t be out of bed

The Struggles, Part 1

We stepped aboard the bus and headed to the arse end, looking for our seats numbered 38 through 42. The numbers seemed to be running out a touch too quickly though, which came to a head when we saw #37 above the seat at the very rear. We assumed we’d bought tickets from some Darryl Dodgy-Dick, and just started to sit anywhere that was free. After 5 minutes of apologetic musical chairs, and with it becoming obvious that the bus was going to be choc full, we asked the driver what the go was.

After he looked at the tickets, he just started to yell at locals to move out of their seats to accommodate us. There were a few Rosa Parks moments, but eventually we all found a seat. Unfortunately for me, one of the displaced locals vented his frustration by pre-emptively not showering for his whole adult life then nestling my face in his armpit for the entire drive. HE GOT ME A BEAUT.

It was like an abattoir full of curdled milk
It was like an abattoir full of curdled milk

So, feeling like King Kong in that scene where they break a barrel of chloroform in his face, I got off the bus a bit woozy and sucked in the big ones before getting pointed to the start of the Inka trail. It kicked off from the side of the road – no fanfare or massive signage – and just started with a few rocks that were followed by a few more. Thankfully our main man Dallas had previously volunteered at the best trekking company in Sucre, and already had 6 hikes under his belt. He explained the route to the Russians, who were going to check out a nearby monastery, and we went on our merry way.

Majestic
Majestic

The first section was an easy roll downhill through a valley. We dawdled along, pausing to throw rocks at things and have Dallas pretend to know what different plants were used for. We took saucy photos on a mini pride rock, and had a quick fruit and wizzle break. We soon came to a point where the inka trail crossed a dirt road. “Now”, Dallas said, in a cocky, bordering-on-smug way, “a lot of people don’t know this, and you may not guess it, but we actually go left and follow the road from here”.

The Struggles, Part 2

“Oh man, we would have totally kept following the trail!” we all presumably said, thanking God that we had the experience and quick wits of Dallas to steer us down the right path, “BOY, we would have looked like GIANT DICKBAGS if we kept going straight”. Being the caring humanitarians we are, we even put down arrows made of rocks and twigs to steer the Russians and any others the right way.

“So guys”, Dallas chirped, “In 20 minutes we’ll get to a grassy knoll – we can either have lunch there, or go another 10 minutes to a fuckin’ sweet waterfall”. Wowee, we said, whatever our awesome guide wants – we’re just happy to be here!

ONE HOUR LATER

“So guys”, Dallas chirped, “In 20 minutes we’ll get to a grassy knoll – we can either have lunch there, or go another 10 minutes to a fuckin’ sweet waterfall”. Fuck off, we said, you have no idea where we are and your positivity despite that is grating.

Found it
Shit

Needing to be at the bottom of the valley, we had found ourselves on a road that was riding atop the mountains on the left side. And even then, we got the sense that Dallas wasn’t even sure we were in the correct valley, it now being ‘a while since’ he’d done this. We resolved to get to the bottom of whatever valley we found ourselves in, and re-evaluate there. Easier said than done.

We started with a 30 degree slope of dry-riverbed style dirt, and kept a tally of the amount of times each of us went arse-up (which, thanks to first-time hikee Mon, felt like it quickly swung up to triple figures). This fell into the backyard of a farm and we soon came eye-to-eye with its owner, who looked as confused as I expect someone who had a whole heap of foreigners lob on top of them should. He waved us on in the direction we were heading, which was reassuring, but it did involve hacking through spiky undergrowth and finished with a 45 degree slope of loose dirt that we threw our bags down and then ourselves.

The story of the day: Dallas looking smug and everyone else holding back a violent urge to stab him
The story of the day: Dallas looking smug and everyone else holding back a violent urge to stab him

So we’d made it to a road at the bottom of the valley after around 3 hours of detour, and we were all pretty chuffed when Dallas said he thought he recognised the road and we should just keep heading the direction we were when we were up the top. His confidence was shaken though, and after 10 minutes of walking the ‘definitely this way’s turned into ‘probably this way’s to ‘SHIT’s. TERRIFIC.

We decided to cut our losses and, despite it quickly drifting into late afternoon, head back to the starting point with the intent to not severely fuck it up this time. We backtracked for about 5 minutes before we saw a couple of hazy figures in the distance. We stopped in our tracks. As they came closer we made them out to be gringos… then we saw that it was the Russians that we’d left when we got off the bus. ‘Where the hell are you going?’ was their entirely fair first question. We explained our adventures, and they informed us that we had been going the right way prior to turning around, and according to their GPS the finish line was sniffable.

'Only 1 person every 30 metres thanks or it'll collapse and you'll die'
‘Only 1 person every 30 metres thanks or it’ll collapse’

Having the backing of technology, Dallas swiftly and confidently jumped back on the guide horse, and we soon started to see the landmarks he was mentioning an hour into the hike; an overhanging tree, a grassy knoll, a majestic waterfall. There was a minor blip when we lost the trail going up a hill and had to lay some mixed martial arts on offending bushes, but we made steady progress. The GPS turned out to be measuring as-the-crow-flies though, and what with our almost entire lack of wings, this made a 3km journey nearer 6.

The sun was going down when we had to tackle a cliff-face of loose dirt about 1 hour from the finish line that had both the consistency and structural integrity of icing sugar. Sizzle and a few others made shits in their pants at the 40-odd metre drop, but made it safe.

What is the point in buying travel insurance if you don't use it
What is the point in buying travel insurance if you don’t use it

From there it was pretty much a cruise across plains to Maragua, but the day had done its damage by then. Dallas’ face had become progressively more punchable, our legs had become progressively more torn up and pooped, and our minds had become a mush of thoughts of food, wine and bed.

After getting to the accommodation, and waiting an hour for the owners to get off the piss and let us in (Saturday night, y’know?), we settled in to a pasta and vino feasting frenzy. The original plan for Sunday was to HIKE ON to the next town over, but over the course of dinner it was decided that that would be the least advisable strategy since the Gallipoli landings. So, free from responsibility, we launched into the drink and a heady session of cards that ended with me somehow accidentally pissing on a dog that may have left an irreparable scar in the minds of both me and the little fella.

Campsite reflections included 'Fuck this' and 'Why'
Campsite reflections included ‘Fuck this’ and ‘Why’

The next day was started as lazily as we had all hoped, and everyone had limped out of bed and sucked down an inadvisable amount of yoghurt by 10am. It was then just a matter of getting a ride back to Sucre, which involved sitting in the main intersection of this shitty-arse town until we saw someone that we could ask the go of. In a town with a population I estimate at 2 and a half, this took a while.

Eventually a local in an open backed truck rolled in and offered to take us to Sucre cattle-style for the grand total of $1.80 apiece. This ticket price did mean that through the journey we were joined by 13 locals, 1 dog, and 2 metric tonnes of timber that we had to load and unload ourselves. But after 3 hours of dust in ALL the orifices, we finally made it back to Sucre – physically ruined, but having gained a far healthier respect for mother nature and her wiles, and having lost any respect for Dallas that I’m not entirely sure was there in the first place.

They upgraded me to business
They upgraded me to business

One small caveat: I’ve made Dallas out to be a giant bag of dicks here, but he’s actually a terrific dude, and any words written against him here are borne out of the frustration of in-that-moment Fishy.

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