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Choquequirao

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Choquequirao is in Sacred Valley of the Incas of Peru. Choquequirao Complex is very interesting and one of the most popular treks in Cusco area. Choquequiraw is situated in the spur of the mountain range of Salkantay, over 3030m surroundedby the Apus of Yamana, Ampay, Chokecarpu, Pumasiyo and Panta, on the left bankof Apurimac river. In the time of the Incas, it was united and in communication with Machu Picchu by a complex network of trails. The reasons are many: The fantastic nature with valleys, snow-capped mountains and great variety of plants, birds and animals.

Understand[edit]

Main Plaza at Choquequirao
View of the Apurimac River from Choquequirao
Large Terraces with Bromeliads
A Tarantula on the path from Marampata
Terraces Featuring White Stone Llamas

It's a two day hike to Choquequirao from Cachora or Huanipaca. Guides and mules for the trip may be found in Cachora. Cachora is the most popular starting point for travelers who want to see the amazing newly-rediscovered Incan site, Choquequirao. Most people go in and out from Cachora as this is the best maintained and serviced trail. There are several places to buy water, Inca Kola and simple dishes of soup, eggs or potatoes along the journey. Another option is to continue onto Santa Teresa (La Convención) or Machu Picchu, but you'll need plenty of food. Hiring a donkey or mule is advised.

There are generally only a few tourists each day entering Choquequirao, the park workers are quite helpful in giving directions. The park itself is quite difficult to navigate with some paths somewhat overgrown. Much of the site is rebuilt: many original large stones have crumbled into smaller pieces, and in places it is easy to identify which sections are original work and which are reconstructed. In the main plaza, concrete beams have been used on one of the buildings. In other places, crumbling ruins are marked with numbers, so if they should fall, they will be able to be reconstructed.

History[edit]

Landscape[edit]

Steep, rugged mountains.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Coral Snakes, Tarantulas.

Biting insects. Three kinds of flying insects, typical mosquitos, horse flies, and tiny biting (sand flies? locals call them mosquito) make long, loose clothing (safari suit) and insect repellent (sold along the trail) required.

*** Last Warning *** The tiny bugs are not like North American mosquitos, are very hard to see, and you don't feel the bite when they bite you. Any exposed skin should be given constant repellent reapplication. The bites last for days to weeks and will be very, very itchy.

Climate[edit]

Due to the altitude, it's hot in the sun and cold at night, sometimes below 0°C. The air is dry on north side of the mountains, humid on the south sides and in cloud forest.

Get in[edit]

There are used to be three trails leading to Choquequirao, one from Cachora, Huanipaca and one from Yanama. Currently Huanipaca trail is closed due to rockfall (as of August 2013, still closed March 2014). To reach Cachora or Huanipaca, take the bus from Cusco to Abancay and get off at Ramal - the turn off for Cachora or Huanipaca (just past Saywite), the roads leading to these towns are about 2km apart. There are at many bus companies that leave for Abancay from Cusco's Terminal Terrestre, but timetables are not usually online. As of March 2014 Breddes buses leave at 5:00am, 6:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm and 8:00pm (20 soles). Another company (the name not remembered), does the route for 15 soles. Get off the bus at Ramal (de Cachora), and from there you need to take a taxi or walk down the switchback roads or paths cutting directly down the hill from the main road to the town you intend to hike from. Taxis often wait for the people from the bus, except on Sunday when you might have to wait an hour. A shared ride from Ramal to Cachora costs around 10 soles. A private taxi will cost 30 soles.

For the Huanipaca and Yamana trails, steep sections make hiking the only option, but the trail from Cachora can be done either on foot or horseback. If you speak a bit of Spanish you should have no trouble finding an arriero and one or more mules or horses in Cachora. Just ask your taxi driver when you get a lift in, or ask at any of the shops in the main Plaza del Armas. Expect to pay at least 25 soles per day for an arriero, and 25 soles per day per horse. Asking rates will probably start at 30 soles per horse/arriero per day but the price can be negotiated. A minimum of 4 days hire is applicable.

The trail from Huanipaca is shorter, steeper and lacks the amenities that the trail from Cachora offers. As of August 2013 Huanipaca trail is closed due to rockfall. The trail from Cachora has several sources of drinkable water, campsites, showers, toilets and at least one place where you can buy Inca Kola. Hiking in from Yanama you would need to start in Mollepata, Santa Teresa or Machu Picchu Pueblo, these are very long and difficult hikes. If you want to do the 8 day Machu Picchu - Cachora hike it is probably easier to do it in reverse as you will find arrieros much more easily and cheaply in Cachora than at the Machu Picchu end. Note that in either case you will probably need to pay for a return journey for the arriero and mule hire, not just the one way.

The Two Day Trek From Cachora;[edit]

Day One - Start out early from Cachora to make it to camp before nightfall and take in all the views as the sun goes down over the Andean valley. The first day is around a seven hour hike and 1,500 meters elevation change down the mountain. There are multiple campsites, all well marked, with running water and bathrooms. The tap water is siphoned from streams coming from lakes and glaciers on the Choquequirao side of the Apurimac River.

Day Two - Finish the hike down the valley to the river, if you haven't already done so, and you'll reach the fabulous amenities that include a much-needed cold shower. There is a cable car for crossing the river. Get ready for an intense hike up the other side. After 11am the sun can make this hike very difficult, with one hiker reporting a walking speed of 500 metres per hour, compared to the usual 4km per hour on relatively flat ground. About 1,800 meters up, Choquequirao awaits. It is possible to hike at night, when the air is much cooler; the path is easy to follow.

Note: As of July 2014, the Bridge across the Apurimac River has been down (for some time). A simple cable car bridge transport hikers across. Therefore, if you hired a mule and driver, you will need to hire another at the other end - this can usually be arranged by your mule handler.

Fees/Permits[edit]

There is an S/.37.00 soles fee (July 2014) that someone will collect from you at the gate to the site, about 1km above Marampata.

Get around[edit]

Total time with a 15kg pack, no guide, no mules: 5 days. Excellent scenery and a great alternative to the Inca trail at Machu Picchu.

With a mule carrying your pack and a good level of fitness it is possible to do this hike in 3 days. This involves hiking the 25km to Santa Rosa on the first day, the 7km to the site on day 2, with perhaps 4-5 hours on site, then doing the 7km back down to Santa Rosa, and finally hiking the 25km from Santa Rosa back out on day 3. The Association of Arrieros in Cachora don´t like arrieros doing it in 3 days, and will fine them 30 soles if they catch them, so those confident in their fitness and wanting to do it in 3 days should probably tip their arriero at least this amount, as well as paying for 4 days hire which is considered the minimum.

You will need at least one full day at the site, it is difficult to navigate and the chances are your body will be aching. I carried about 12 to 15kg's and I spent 2 days hiking in, 2 days at the site and 2 days hiking out. I think I sustained permanent injuries to both my knees on this hike, 8 months later they are still sore. I suggest carrying as little as possible, hike in the cool of the night and drink from the streams rather than carrying liters of water. It is recommended that water be treated with iodine pills, UV light, or a water filter before consumption. These things are far lighter than the bottles of water themselves. I personally drank lots of water without treating it and it was fine.

As of April 2013, the mule bridge to cross the river has been washed out, meaning you can no longer take the same mules all the way from Cachora to Choquequirao. The mule drivers recommend renting your first set of mules for 4 days - one to hike to the crossing, then two days for them to sit around on the near side of the river while you go to the city, and then they'll be waiting for you when you return, to carry your bags back on the fourth day. From the river up to Choquequirao, you can get a second set of mules - the person who runs the campsite and cable bridge at the river crossing has a radio, and can try to get you a set of mules to go up and down the hill. He may be a bit unreliable, keep at him until you're sure of the mules.

Talk[edit]

The locals are helpful but only speak Spanish and/or Quechua. The site is an active digging site, there are archaeologists working there, some of whom are American.

See[edit][add listing]

The terraces with white stone llamas. Wild flowers.

Do[edit][add listing]

Trek. Be sure to spend the time to see all the various sections of Choquequirao, as they are all quite fascinating in their own way. It takes one complete day of 8 hours to cover the entire park, and there are many sections in the middle of being uncovered - a little bush whacking will usually be rewarded with a rarely viewed section of this still covered Incan palace.

Buy[edit][add listing]

There are several tiny (one-family) settlements at campsites along the way selling cooked food, snacks, beer, bottled water and soft-drinks, unless you plan on carrying a lot of water just drink from the taps - it usually comes from small mountain rivers, so treatment makes generally sense but is not always strictly required.

Eat[edit][add listing]

There are (very simple but filling) cooked meals available at Chiquisca, Santa Rosa and Marampata. A plate of food or bowl of soup will cost you about 3 soles (10 soles in Marampata). These locations also sell soft drinks, snacks, and the ubiquitous.

A local entrepreneur will have wisely opened a shop with Gatorade and snacks about 10 minutes before you find another shop. Don't worry about it and just buy food or snacks as you need them. In every camp site along the way (except playa rosalina) locals have set up shop, so you can buy water, soda, rice, and snacks(sometimes eggs and fruit, but not always).

  • Cachora, KM 0. Starting point and has the usual food, prepared and bodegas, of any small Peruvian town.  edit
  • Huayhuacalle, KM 9. Incredibly friendly family selling crackers, sodas, batteries, cigarettes, etc. Just before the big descent into the river valley.  edit
  • Chiquisca, KM 19. You can buy simple cooked food, snacks and drinks here. Donations for cooked food (3 soles was acceptable for soup at lunch, containing rice, tomatoes, onions, and seasoning. The shopkeeper is very friendly, and may try to feed you chicha or the deadly-strong distilled alcohol caña. Purchased cooked eggs and rice for an additional 5 soles.  edit
  • Playa Rosalina, KM 21. Cerveza's available here for 10 soles / bottle (Cristal)  edit
  • Santa Rosa, KM 25. Campground selling snacks, beer, soft drinks. Just before the campground, there is a hut with a family selling snacks, beer, soft drinks and simple cooked food.  edit
  • Marampata, KM 28. Pueblo just below ruins. Prepared food can be had for 10 soles (sopa y segundo) or 8 soles (solo segundo). Plenty of snacks and drinks but all will cost about 50% more than at the bottom. We bought extra rice for camping for 3 soles here. A small amount of Spanish and you can easily negotiate for some prepared food.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Fresh water from the mountain streams. The cautious will want to filter or purify with iodine, but I drank unfiltered without problems.

Shopkeepers and campgrounds will also have water on tap. Filter as you wish (we used UV everywhere in Peru). They will try to sell you bottled water but keep pushing and they will let you fill up from tap. (Buy *something* from them).

Take note of the stream / hut locations on day 1 while descending, so you can plan your water for ascending. There were 3 sources of water on the cachora side of the river.

For the ascent to Marampata - there is a stream crossing about an hour and a half from the bottom (Playa Rosalina), and another about another third of the way up - plan according to your fitness, probably carry a liter or less from each location. Plenty of water at the final campground below the ruins. (Showers and drinking)

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Camping is the only option

Lodging[edit]

Tent. Bring your own or hire in Cachora - there are several locations renting tents, sleeping bags and sleeping rolls. Look for 'Carpo Alquilo' signs or ask, if you speak Spanish.

Camping[edit]

You can camp near the entrance of the ruins or at several sites nearby and there are designated campsites on the way to the ruins. The main camp sites are state of the art with flush toilet with doors, cold water shower, benches and a kitchen area, and nice flat grassy areas to pitch your tent. Most of them have an attendant living on site who will be your friend for the evening. There are camp sites at the following locations:

  • Colmena, KM 4. A homestead owned and run by the Sullcahuasami Lopez family, this is 4km along the way to Choquequirao and is a great place to stay the night before beginning the trek as it gives you a bit of a head start. The Lopez family are very hospitable and can help you with hiring an arriero and mules, although they only speak Spanish. To reach it you can either walk the 4km down the hill from Cachora, or else it is reachable by taxi.  edit
  • Chiquisca, KM 19. A campground and shop a few kilometres above the Apirumac river on the path to Choquequirao, at KM 19. The 'standard itinerary' often stays here the first night. It is however less pleasant than most of the other campsites due to the presence of many biting flies that leave tiny blood blisters at the bite site. You can buy simple cooked food, snacks and drinks here. The shopkeeper is very friendly, and may try to feed you chicha or the deadly-strong distilled alcohol caña.  edit
  • Playa Rosalina, KM 21. This is a well-fitted out campsite next to the Apurimac river on the trek to Choquequirao, around KM 21. There isn't any food but there are some concrete shelters, clean bathrooms and showers. Compared to the other campsites this one feels less homely and more artificial.  edit
  • Santa Rosa, KM 25. Santa Rosa is a campground at KM 25 along the path to Choquequirao. There are actually 2 campsites - Santa Rosa, and Santa Rosa Alto, a bit further up. Just before the campground proper, there is a hut with a family selling snacks, beer, soft drinks and simple cooked food. If you choose to camp there it is 2 soles but you can enjoy their hospitality. Camping at the INC campground about 100m further along is free.  edit
  • Marampata, KM 28. This is the last campground with food on the trail to Choquequirao. It has beautiful views of the valley below and at KM 28 it is only 4km below Choquequirao. * < There is another campground at Choquequirao itself, just below the ruins, which is free but it has no food, is colder at night and the showers are frigid.  edit

Back-country[edit]

No permits are needed.

Stay safe[edit]

This is an isolated area but the trail is well maintained and easy to follow and people travel along it most days.

In August 2011 it was reported that remnants of the Shining Path armed with rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers robbed a group of German and American tourists and ordered them to hand over their food, cameras and other equipment. Nobody was hurt. [1]

Get out[edit]

There are three trails out from Choquequirao. They go to Cachora, Huanipaca and Yanama. From Yanama its possible to continue hiking onward to Machu Picchu, Santa Teresa (Peru) or Mollepata.

Instead of walking the same way back, an easier way out is to go to Huanipaca: Within 5-6 hours (2 hours down to the river, 3h uphill) you can reach the hotel "Villa Los Loros" (rooms 100 soles), which is located 17km on the road from Huanipaca, has a good Italian restaurant and free camping spots. From there you can order a taxi (40 soles) to Huanipaca and from there take shared taxis/buses back to Cusco. However Huanipaca trail is currently closed due to rockfall (as of August 2013).

Companies[edit]



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