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Delving Into Gratitude: Choquequirao

Two men on a stone wall in Peru“According to the Peruvian Tourism Office, ‘Choquequirao’ was probably one of the entrance check-points to the Vilcabamba Region, part of Pachacutec’s Inca Empire. It was also an administrative hub serving political, social and economic functions. Its urban design has followed the symbolic patterns of the imperial capital, with ritual places dedicated to the Inti (sun god), to the earth, water and other divinities. With mansions for administrators and houses for artisans, warehouses and farming terraces. Overall, it also played an important role as a link between the Amazon Jungle and the city of Cusco.”

With everything settled and prepared to leave Cusco, thinking about Choquequirao made me feel like we were already there. A 4-hour bus ride to Cachora, the town where we slept, was just the beginning. Being hidden in the clouds and with no signal on the phones, gave us a good glimpse of what we had ahead of us. After organising the expedition, the mules and horses, we took a local bus to Capuliyoc, a starting view point. From here we were able to identify the route to follow.


Signs and a mountain view from Capuliyoc Pass
Capuliyoc Pass – © Mac Bart

This cloud forest truly is marvellous! That was what first crossed my mind… I believe it was the same for my other 12 mates. What could make this trek very difficult, if not physically and mentally challenging, is the fact that the trek itself takes you from the 3,000 metres above sea level at the starting point, down to the 1,100 metres and then takes you up again to 3,100 metres approx. at Choquequirao. When you get there you have to come back to the starting point; although this was an issue for some of the group on our first meeting to prepare the trek, it was also a great picture in our imagination. We wanted to cross Apurimac’s River to get away as much as we could from mosquitoes and camp closer to the final trail to Choquequirao. It took us 6 hours to get to Santa Rosa “La Alta” where we settled our first camp. We prepared a great lunch – dinner and stared at the amazing skies for a while before going to sleep.


View of Apurimac Valley

We woke up at 04:30 and breakfast was already served. Oats + chocolate + raisins and an obligatory coca-tea! A “punch” of energy! It took us, at a very good pace, 3 hours to get to the Choquequirao control point. We had a break and continued our way to the powerful citadel. It was amazing to be aware and conscious of the environment we were at. It is kind of hard to fully describe what I felt throughout the whole trek up to here…I guess you will understand me if you ever get to discover this land. Choquequirao’s first glimpse was completely amazing! When you are finally entering the site you can start recreating part of the history. Its terraces, ceremonial centres, view points, its semi-naturalistic figures, its residences, made a better picture of what we imagined…absolutely incredible! The altitude and the place where it is settled attracts by its air currents, a lot of condors. We were amazed by a couple of them! 5-6 hours seemed enough inside the site. We decided to camp a few hours down from Choquequirao, at Marampata (local community) because we felt much more comfortable in one of the camp sites. We were allowed to use the local family’s kitchen and get some good rest during the night.


Cocamasana © Chris Pearrow
Cocamasana © Chris Pearrow

We started very early knowing that this was going to be one of the hardest days. We had to come down to cross the river before the sun started to heat up the way. Once we crossed the Apurimac River we knew we had to recover for about an hour… trekking down can be much more difficult than gaining altitude, especially if you have some sort of knee problems. We had an energetic lunch at Chikisca, camp site situated just at the base of the river. We arrived at Cocamasana at 12:00 hours mid-day knowing we had a whole afternoon free to enjoy the amazing views. Beer, snacks, lunch and hot chocolate were part of the scenery!


A group of trekkers smiling

From Cocamasana we started our day at 04:50 hours since we wanted to speed up the pace to gain some time at the view point. Capuliyoc was part of our first and last group meditation. Photos, cheers and hugs are necessary through out the whole trek but a “must” at this point! We ended up getting a local car to drive us back to Cachora. We saved another 3-hour hike and instead, we cheered up with a local “Inca wine” CHICHA, at Cachora’s main plaza!

Presently the only way to access Choquequirao is by a 3D/2N hike for experienced trekkers. A 5D/4N is highly suggested! The construction of the cable car to the ancient Inca citadel of Choquequirao has been declared a priority by the Apurimac Regional Government. It will reduce the hike to a 15 minute cable car ride… While still magical for its less known access, Choquequirao is a “must” in your path through Peru. Highly recommended! The reward is plentiful; crazy and real wilderness, unlimited mountain views and the opportunity to explore another hidden corner of the fabulous ancient Inca ruins!