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Choquequirao Ruins - No guide? No problem!

PERU | Sunday, 4 October 2009 | Views [1791] | Comments [2]

Las Llamas

Las Llamas

So, it all began on Wednesday morning with me wandering through the streets of Cusco wondering what was left to see around here. I saw a picture outside a travel agency of some ruins called Choquequirao, so I inquired about them. A four-day hike? I´ve done one of those already. Sounds like fun. I sign up. My group leaves first thing in the morning, so I pack my dirty clothes and call it good.

Thursday. I´m up to grab a quick shower before getting picked up, but there´s no water today. Not even being picky asking for hot water! I get nothing. Ok. No big deal. I´m going to be all dirty soon anyhow. Well, for some reason, my ride never comes, so we call at 5:30 am, and someone eventually shows up. No idea who this guy in a taxi is, but he takes me to a bus terminal and says, ¨Meet Daniel from Australia. He´s your partner for the trek.¨ OK. I was supposed to have 3 other people on this hike. Turns out Daniel wasn´t supposed to have anyone else in his group...which is supposed to last one day longer than my trip. hmmm...not off to a great start. We sit and wait, then run after some guy who says, you´re in seat 41 and you´re in 42, then puts us on a bus and disappears. OK. Not really getting better. 3.5 hours later, we get off at a turn off to a tiny town called Cachora with our cook, I think, and take a taxi 30 minutes to some house where we have breakfast...or maybe lunch.

The trek starts with us being told that the horses have too much to carry today, so we have to carry everything we brought. Not the original plan. Five hours and 19 km later, I´m exhausted and not really thrilled at having to share the tent with Daniel, too. The food was sparse for dinner, and I was asleep before 8 pm. In the morning, I had to beg for some boiled (clean) water for the day since no one listened to me last night. That meant that my water for the entire morning was hot. The first two km were downhill, and not too bad. About 30 minutes. The next 7.5 km were sheer torture. By some miracle, we climbed 1700 meters in 3.5 hrs. Lunch was a couple hours later, then my guide, Elvis, and I walked the last 3 km in an hour to Choquequirao.

This was the best part of the four days, minus getting back to Cusco. The ruins are huge, and it was most likely a very important place. The construction was very different than Machu Picchu and some of the other ones I´ve seen, so that was neat. The Incas took the best of each culture they conquered, so this place was built by some other group under the Incan direction. We hiked down the back side of the mountain a ways to get to Sector Llamas. Here, there are lots of llamas in the rocks...white rocks that make llama shapes, that is. The we hiked all the way back up to the top of the highest point where important people probably lived, and then over to the temple. A little side trip down the other side of the mountain brought us to Pikiwasi (little house, in Quechua.) We talked a lot in Spanish, then had a ¨tranquillo¨ walk back to the campsite. I had spagetti for dinner, and my tentmate is sick. Double whammy.

Luckily, I didn´t wake up sick and my new friends from Atlanta that are one the trek with a different group didn´t leave me. My guide is apparently staying with Daniel, so I am guide-less. Margo and Diego are cool though, and so is their guide Kati. Somehow we flew down the mountain and got to the river in about two hours. I put my feet in for a bit, then we began the 2 km climb of torture up the other side to our lunch destination. It was sooo hot. Probably only mid-80s, but that sun is a lot hotter the closer you are to it! Especially, when climbing. At lunchtime, I was adopted by a Spanish couple and their guide Juan. That was the best meal of the trip. The next three km weren´t too bad since we waited for the sun to go down a bit before continuing to the next campsite.

Once there, I put my stuff in my tent, which I have by myself tonight since Daniel is still next to the ruins. Yay! At least that´s how it was supposed to work out. I walked back to my tent before dinner and saw someone else´s sleeping bag and backpack in there! I found Kati after laughing at my misfortune with the Atlanta couple, and she got it all cleared up for me. Luckily, no big deal. 5:00 came really early, despite all my early bedtimes, and I started walking the last 19 km ahead of the horses that the Spaniards are riding. A while later, the Atlantans caught up and passed me, then I was alone again. I made it about 5 km before I thought my chest was going to burst. All of that was uphill. And the air was getting colder, making it harder to breathe.

The horses caught up and Juan said they had an extra horse if I wanted it. I considered being stubborn, but then decided that a horse ride would be a nice change and a good way to actually enjoy the end of my trip! So, good news-I get a horse. Bad news-I have to wait for it to catch up since it´s farther back. So, Juan and I walk really, really, turtle slow, and make it to the top of the pass before the horse catches up. Ok. I did it! I walked all of the hard part by myself! Now we rest, grab a snack, and wait on the horses. Once they´re all together, Juan says that we have to walk about 15 minutes because this part of the trek is dangerous for the horses. NOOOOooooooo!!!!!  Don´t tell me I get a horse, and then take him away from me!!!  That´s just wrong. So, I ended up getting to ride, but it wasn´t until the last 10 km, which were basically flat. The easy part. But it was a nice change, and it was fun.

We got back to Cachora and had breakfast around 10. Long, confusing story later, I ended up with 7 other people stuffed in a tiny taxi for 30 minutes to the turn off the highway for Cachora. With all of our backpacks, cooking equipment, etc. Crazy, and somehow, I actually fell asleep with my head leaning on the back of the driver´s seat. At the turnoff, my cook and I got dropped off on the side of the road to wait over two hours for our bus back to Cusco. And I don´t really understand much of what my cook says. Nor do I know his name. After a bit, he basically said that if I had S/.20 ´(because he didn´t have any money) then we could take whatever bus came next that had space for us, so we didn´t have to be bored waiting there. Sounds good to me! 5 minutes later, he flags down a bus, we climb on, and I slept most of the 3 hours back to Cusco. The random guy that picked me up on Thursday was there to put me in another taxi, and I made it back to Manuel Prado (the street where Darcy lives) just fine. Almost.

It would have been fine if my taxi driver hadn´t run a red light and nearly hit a police truck. I mean, seriously. So, literally, one block away from home, we get pulled over, and the police take his papers. They were nice enough to let him drive me the one block home, and then, I imagine, the taxi guy was in big trouble. But I wasn´t there to see it. Darcy warmed up some food for me after I got out of the shower (much needed after none for four days), and the rest of the evening was quite lovely.

And that, my friends, was my trip to Choquequirao.




WOW, what an adventure. I totally know what you mean about the sun being so hot when you are so close to it. And also your lungs burning because of lack of air and cold weather! But at least we had practice with not showering at Yellowstone. sounds like I would have enjoyed it! Only you could have such a crazy adventure! keep the stories coming

  Lindsey Oct 11, 2009 11:38 AM


"What doesn't kill you just makes you stronger!"
I'm proud of you....I would have given up and gone back to the States after that.

  Karen Brinton Oct 19, 2009 4:29 AM

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