Choquequirao – Machu Picchu
We decided not to hike the highly overpriced and overcrowded Inca trail… plus permit were sold out anyways. The Choquequirao trail was not only less traveled but it also lead to Inca ruins that were recently discovered and are only 30% excavated.
The hike itself was challanging!! We would literally go down a mountain only to climb right back up on the other side of the valley. Let’s put the first 6 days out of 8 into perspective…
Day 1 = 9,450 ft start and 4,800 ft end.
Day 2 = 4,800 ft start and 9,551 ft end.
Day 3 = rest and ruins
Day 4 = 9,551 ft start up to 10,830 ft and then down to 6,250 ft and then back up to 9,692 ft.
Day 5 = 9,692 ft start up to 13,530 ft and then down to 11,588 ft.
Day 6 = 11,588 ft start up to 15,250 ft and then down to 11,000 ft.
Another aspect that made it challenging was all the mud!! We were slipping and sliding during most of the hike and not to mention camping in it as well. However, the scenery was spectacular!! The mountains we were climbing could only be described as green and awe-inspiring. There was a wide variety of plant life but sadly we did not see any of the bears found in the area. One thing I did find amazing were all the random houses, farms, and villages that were scattered on the mountain side. They were so isolated that the had to be mostly self maintaining. Otherwise, they got all of their supplies by hauling them in on horses. The ruins themselves were fun to walk through but it was a workout… the Incas had to be fit thats for sure. Their buildings and irrigation systems were fairly impressive considering what they had available. We also saw a deer grazing in a back section of the ruins!
Day 4 was the continuation of the hike to Machu Picchu. We ended in a town that day where we planned to take a bus/taxi to Hydroelectrico since the trail was following a road but the only two cars in the town either had no tires or had a dead battery. During day 5 we decided to walk until a car drove by or we made it to the other town which happen to be the latter of the two. Motorcycles were the only thing to drive by. Luckily, there were functioning vehicles in the second town… but there was a landslide the night before that took out the road. The driver said we were going to try anyways but when we got there there was no chance of passage since there were still giant rocks falling. It just so happened that there was a zipline trolley at that exact spot that took us across the river where we walked the trail for about 45 minutes. We then crossed the river again in a smaller zipline trolley to a different car that took us to town. Boy was that an adventure!! The next day we got a ride to Hydroelectrico where we hit the final part of the trail to Machu Picchu.
The hike up to Machu Picchu was a piece of cake compared to what we did before. When we finally got up there we were welcomed with a clearing sky and a perfect day. Machu Picchu was way more elaborate than Choquequirao but it seemed Choquequirao could potentially be bigger when it is completely uncovered. Machu Picchu was also way more crowded with more rules which was expected. It also had the stereotypical llamas that were clearly kept there for tourists. But like a tourist I took some llama selfies.
Lastly, we ran into a couple of French guys that we were stuck with us at 18,000 ft during Christmas on Aconcagua 5 months before!!! What are the odds of us running into them again!! So we took a picture with them to document the reunion.