Choquequirao Inca Ruins 2005
   
 
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Choquequirao is a recently rediscovered ridge-top Inca site far away in the Andes about two days walk from the remote city of Cachora. Cachora again, is circa 4 hours drive north of the Inca capital of Cuzcu. Because we waited too long to order a trip on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, we decided to walk the Inca trail to Choquequirao instead. Back and forth, it was about 60 km from Cachora to Choquequirao. It was a nice trek, to be sure, but at the same time a very strenuous walk. At least for me, an office backbencher out of shape, and with stamina like a sack of potatoes. The Incas were crazy, building cities on the mountain tops, and far away from everything. Not so strange their culture vanished shortly after the Spaniards arrived in their backyard. Below a short description of this Inca site can be seen.

Choquequirao Inca ruins

   

On our way to San Pedro de Cachora

Lunch i det grønne. On our way to Cachora

     
 

Cachora, situated at 2890 meter

Arriving in Cachora

 

Here we go. View from Cachora

Choquequirao - the Cradle of Gold (the text is from this site: http://www.inkanatura.com/choquequirau.asp)

Choquequirao sits in the saddle of a high Andean ridge,3000m./10,000 ft. above sea level and 1,500m./5,000 ft. above the roaring waters of the Apurimac River. Ringed by spectacular snow-capped peaks and flanked by plunging, thickly forested slopes, the city is an inspiring example of an elite Inca ceremonial center, dedicated to the worship of the mountain gods, the river and the elements of nature. Choquequirao has been called “Machu Picchu’s sacred sister”, because of the striking similarities of design and ceremonial architecture to its famous counterpart above the Urubamba Gorge. Yet it remains an enigmatic place whose history is a matter of speculation. One theory of its origins holds that it was a royal estate built for the emperor Topa Inca, perhaps in an attempt to rival his father Pachacuti’s spectacular domain at Machu Picchu.

For centuries Choquequirao lay shrouded in obscurity, protected by its remoteness. Unlike Machu Picchu, people knew it was there – it was first mentioned in a Spanish document of 1710, later visited by various explorers and treasure hunters, and roughly surveyed in the 19th century by the French consul in Lima, Leonce Angrand. Finally, in 1909, the indefatigable U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham –the future scientific discoverer of Machu Picchu -- explored and mapped the site.

Today we can trek to Choquequirao via a modern footbridge across the Apurimac River. The journey is as awe-inspiring as ever, taking us through an astounding range of ecological zones, from Andean farming valleys, descending through a hot and arid canyon environment featuring kapok trees, cactus and agaves, and climbing again to a region of lush cloud forest, beneath the dizzying snowcaps of the Cordillera Vilcabamba.

 

Cachora valley. Cacti landscape

Cachora valley. More scenic landscape

 

Peruvian wildflowers (Klip Dagga - Leonotis nepetifolia)

Day 1.

Up extremely early in Cusco, around 5 o'clock in the morning. Mainly to ensure that we would reach Cachora and start the walking before lunch. Only to experience that the road was closed on our way there (they were building bridges). We had to wait for two hours, and were served breakfast on the roadside. Well, around noon we arrived in Cachora, and after lunch, we started walking towards the spectacular snowcapped mountains. Very scenic landscape.

This day we walked 17 km, and the "sherpa's" put up camp at Chiquisca. It became dark before we reached the campsite. Even though the walk lasted only about five hours, the 1000 meter descent was quite hard, and we (or was it me?) were happy finally reaching the tents.

This first day we learnt one thing. The trip we bought from The Inka Wasi Travel company was more luxurious than we thought in the first place. Seven mules carried the equipment, including our backpacks, and two small horses were available for riding (a very good idea, it turned out). And we were followed by Marco, our guide, an excellent cook, plus a bunch of helpers (six the first day, later five). These locals were amazing, they ran up and down the mountain-sides like maniacs. And they put up camp very fast, and were helpful if we needed something.

 

Apurimac Canyon

Apurimac Canyon

 

Scenic walk

Still in a good mode

 

Dinner the first night at the Chiquisca campsite (elevation 1,835 m)

Agave

 

Bridge across Apurimac River

A needed rest

 

 

Apurimac River

Apurimac River crossing at 1,475 m

 
 

Bromeliad Air plant (Tillandsia sp.) near Apurimac River

Agave landscape

 

Agave

Still in a good mode

 

Cacti

Cacti

     
 

Near the village of Maranpata

Relaxing at Maranpata

 

Day 2.

Up around six o'clock. Kick starting with a cup of green tea made of coca leaves, brought to us by the sherpa's every morning. We walked down to the Apurimac river, situated at 1550 meters above sea level. After crossing the bridge across the river, it was uphill. Almost 1500 meter zigzagging up, in a steep climb up the mountain to Maranpata, situated around 2900 m.o.s.l. In between we had a quick stop at Santa Rosa, in the middle of the hillside. Crazy kid stuff!

After lunch, we walked to Sunchupata, our new campsite for the night. Part of the track was quite steep, and Gollum appeared again...

Fantastic view from the village of Maranpata (elevation 2,913 m)

 

The "sherpa" crew, friendly and very strong people!

We had an excellent cook. This was the standard (from Marampata)!

 

We called him "Gollum". Not the best place in the world to have vertigo ...

The second evening near Choquequirao

 

Wildflower near Choquequirao

Marco the guide

 

In 2005, they were still clearing vegetation from the terraces near Choquequirao

The valley of the Apurimac River

 

Day 3.

Very early and before breakfast (5:00 am) we traveled towards Choquequirao, where we remained for about three hours, and where Marco told us the details about this important Inca refuge. We then returned to Sunchupata, descended to Santa Rosa, where we stopped for lunch. Thereafter we continued descending to Playa Rosalina that took about one hour. Upon our arrival at Rosalina we continued the journey to the campsite of Chaquisqa, two hours away from Rosalina, where we spent the final night.

The ruins in the morning sun

 

Now there are plans to make this 2 day hike into a 15 min. cable car visit

Choquequirao, situated at 3,050 m

 

Choquequirao ruins

Choquequirao upper ruins

 

Choquequirao terrace

Choquequirao terrace

 

Choquequirao

Choquequirao

 

Compared to Machu Picchu, there are almost not tourists at

Norwegian tourists

 

Lots of vegetation clearing remains at Choquequirao

Overgrown ruins

 

The second campsite near Choquequirao

Choquequirao terrace camping

 

Up, up, thousands of feets. Glad I had a mule, although it hated me and tried several times to trough me into the abysss

What were they thinking? This is the track up- and down the mountain-side

 

 

A local heading for Cachora

 

Marco, our guide, plays the flute

 
 

Day 4.

Breakfast was served in Chaquisqa (06:00 am) after which we returned along the same route to Cachora along the canyon of Apurimac, over the pass of Capuliyoc. From here, it took another two hours to reach the village of Cachora.

Finally, we made it back to civilization, or at least to the pickup car. All in all, it was a great but strenuous trip. And after a couple of days one tend to forget all about the tiresome hiking, and just remember the fantastic nature in this remote part of Peru.

 

The valley

 

Cactus

Sindre and the Andean condor

 

Bromeliad plant (Tilandsia sp.)

Yes, it was steep many places. A drop often means certain death

 

Uphill return

Trail

 

Horses and mules carrying our equipment

Happy days. Almost back!

 

The horses and mules having a break

The team, finally back in Cachora