I am sure you know what Choquequirao is, so no explanation is needed. You know how to get there? Great! Then there is no need to write this article anymore. Goodbye!
Just kidding. 😀
Choquequirao is a sisterly Incan ruin of Machu Pichu (pic 1), located a few kilometers from a city named Abancay. To be honest with you, Choquequirao to me is much more interesting than Machu Pichu, largely because it is less known, less touristic and more of surprises. When we were there, we saw about 10 visitors a day and we spotted wild deer, condor (largest flying bird in the world), fireflies and saw rainbows above the valley river. Our camp was visited several times by a wild boar at night, which was sniffing around the tent. Yes, we were excellent cook and our food attracted much attention. 😉 😀
PIC 1. The Gate to Heaven, Choquequirao
There are basically two ways to get there. Of course if you ask some tourist agencies or government authorities, they will tell you there are only ONE WAY to get there, the safer way, which is take a minivan to Cachora, then a taxi to Capuliyoc, which is the last place passable by cars, then you start trekking to Choquequirao, which on average takes two days.
Do you believe that’s the only way?
Of course not! 😀 There is another way, much more desolate and challenging. That’s the WILD WAY to Choquequirao. We took this wild way to Choquequirao and come back to modern civilization through the safer track.
This wild track is not for everybody. We encountered lightning, heavy rain, way too much shit and too many mosquitoes on the track. One of the girls in the group had altitude sickness on the first day because she had never been to this high. The other girl was afraid of height…… One guy in the group did not have a heart in good condition and was also a 17-year long heavy smoker. He had such difficulty to climb up! His speed was about 1/3 of our average speed.
PIC 2. The Team (I Know We Look Wonderful, THX!)
However, do not get scared! WOWO! It is totally doable. All of us safely made it. On the second day we met two Peruvians who were trekking happily the same way. My Peruvian friend had a couchsurfer from Sweden. She did the whole track from Kunalla to Cachora in TWO DAYS! WOWO!
More importantly, the experience is totally worth the effort! Stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things, challenging yourself, aren’t those what we have exactly learned from traveling?
PIC 3. The View After Ascending to Choquequirao, Yeah!
Day 1 Abancay – Kunalla – Camping Stations
In Abancay you can take a minivan which is called collectivo to Kunalla. Everyday there is only ONE! at about 12:30 to 13:00. It costs 15 Soles/person and the journey will take 3 hours through beautiful mountains. If there are like 6 people or more in your expedition, it’s possible that the regular minivan will be too full to take you all. No worries, ask other drivers if they want to make some extra cash and normally you can find a vehicle to Kunalla, like we did.
Kunalla is basically the last place on the track with electricity, shops, beers and other modern necessities, so once you arrive, get some necessary supplies. 🙂
PIC 4. Welcome to Kunalla
While in the minivan, tell the driver to drop you near the Mirador (lookouut point) of Kunalla. Once you arrive in Kunalla, walk to the mirador and have a wonderful view! WOWO! From the mirador you can see the way you will be going down towards the river and the way you will climb up on day 2. Yes, a lot of zigzagging!
Pic 5. The Mirador of Kunalla
PIC 6. Now You See the Zigzagging for Tomorrow
Now, very importantly! Say goodbye to civilization! and embrace the enormous NATURE! 😀 You will walking towards Playa San Ignacio. That is the name of the river bank you are heading to. If you are not sure, ask local villagers. On the way from the mirador to the village there is a turn on your left, with a simple map on it, as shown by photo below. That is the way you should turn!
PIC 7. Turn Here
DO NOT DWELL IN KIUNALLA OR THE MIRADOR TOO MUCH! We did that and when we were descending towards the river it got dark, rainly, thundering and slippery. It was such a difficult thing to track on mud road with rocks and cow shit at dark. 🙂 So better hurry up and descend to a proper camping place before it’s dark.
There are two places to camp on day 1, a tourist camping station half way between Kiunalla and the river bank, with toilets, running water, a roof and many cabins and the other one is located at the river bank with similar facilities. Seriously, nowadays it is so hard to totally rid human traces…… Before I went to Africa I thought there would be a lot of wild land without much human influence but no! Almost all the land was claimed, cleaned or built! The only places where no human traces were found were some national reserves…… some fenced and heavily guarded. Ok, enough diversion from the topic. 🙂 😛
PIC 8. The Half Way Camping Station
It took us about 3 hours to descend to the first camping station, after encountering a couple of cows and mules. There is an administrator in the camping station but we did not see his face. He was in the toilet while we arrived. We shouted if it was ok to camp there and he said yes. That was about it. The not-so-nice part was that the next morning we found him gone and the toilets locked!
There are many orange trees in the camping site and behind it there was a ruin from Spanish colonial time. Help yourself with some fresh oranges! There is even a bamboo stick for this purpose. 🙂
PIC 9. Time for Harvest
Not far from the toilets there is a big roof, under which you can leave your luggage and have a rest. In front of the roof there is a piece of flat ground, good for both camping and making camp fire. Time for cooking!
PIC 9. The Legendary Big Roof
Now I am going to relate to you what wonderful food we cooked and the pyschological effects it had. WOWO!
Just kidding. 😀 It’s pretty heavy to carry a lot of things, but to make sure that everyday you have some protein and carbohydrates is still necessary. Canned fish or meat can be an option but according to our first-hand experience they are too heavy to carry. A good option would be boiled eggs or salted eggs. I thought about catching insects along the way but it turned out to be difficult. The biggest edible insects I could find were grasshoppers and they could be delicious, bur there were very few of them……
PIC 10. The Equally Legendary Grasshopper
Day 2 Camping Sites – Choquequirao Official Camping Ground
Get ready! This is the hardest track! WOWO! (sorry, I know I WOWO too much. Will try to reduce the frequency.) We started at about 9 AM and I was the first one to arrive. When I arrived it just got totally dark……
On day 2, bascially first you have to go down to the river bank, where there is another camping site. You can wash yourself there and take a break, or even do some yogo or Taichi, like we did. 😛 At the river bank you will see a bridge. At the beginning of the bridge there is a misleading sign telling you that Choquequirao should be the other way around. Ignore it and cross the bridge.
PIC 11. Feel Free to Take A Photo And Ignore the Arrow 🙂
The surface of the bridge was a bit broken but they put long wooden planks there so you could rather safely pass. Then it is the time to hike uphill. This is hard. You will see clearly that there was constructed paths with railings but many sections are totally broken. There are several sites of loose stones, landslides and tsunami. 😀 Just kidding, no tsunami. After every one or two kilometers or so, there will be some big stone chairs for you to rest a bit and catch your breath. However, don’t be happy too early. Stopping means getting attacked by massive mosquito and sand fly armies! We suffered from it a lot.
PIC 12. Some Epic Stop We Made for Lunch
When you almost get to the top of the mountain, BANG! there will be a change. Suddenly you will enter the jungle, where there are even more mosquitoes. After walking in the jungle for a while, you will turn from one side of the mountain to the other side. There is a rather flat piece of land with foundations about 15 min walking from the official camping site. This is a good place for camping. Of course you can also go on to the offical Choquequirao camping site, where there is running water and cold shower. We camped in this wild site with foundations and had all the nature totally for ourselves. 😀 There are fireflies blinking around. As last night, the stars were amazing! Two of us saw a shooting star. WOWO! At night a wild boar visited our camp, several times. It could be scary, seriously, so better keep your food well caped to reduce the smell attraction.
PIC 13. What A Wonderful Bridge
PIC 14. What A Landslide Site
PIC 15. What A Path
The path is very clear and there is no major spliting. There are also signs every kilometer telling you how far you are now from Choquequirao official camping ground, which was below Choquequirao ruin site.
Day 3 Visiting Choquequirao
Now comes the serious business! You have to pay to visit this ancient site, which quite makes sense. 60 Soles per person or 30 if you possess a student card. For Peruvians it is much cheaper.
PIC 16. The Camping Site Which Was Visited by Wild Pigs
Kill the fire before you leave your camp, walk to the official camping ground. Go a bit up to the toilet and shower place, beside which you see a sign saying “follow the sign” (in Spanish of course). Follow it up. Yes, it is hard uphill again. Soon the path splits into two branches. Take the RIGHT one! Walk up until you reach a rather flat road, not so much up or down anymore. Go LEFT and you will reach the sign of…… Choquequirao! 😀 WOWO! All together from the official camping site to arrive in the beginning section of Choquequirao it takes more or less half an hour.
PIC 17. The Terraces Were the Official Camping Ground
After walking a bit up through the terraced fields you will arrive in the main square, which faces a temple with the gates to heaven on one side and some roofless houses on the opposite side. WOWO! Now have fun guys! 😀 There is a llama section also, but to reach this one you have to go downhill. There are terraced fields with llama mosaics in the stone walls. There is a sign on the main square saying “sector de llama”, so it is not that difficult to find. Behind the temple there is a flat highland serving as a great lookout point. Behind the roofless houses there are many other ancient houses and also you can go up from there to reach a higher platform, where there are more ancient constructions.
PIC 18. Hold It There
PIC 19. Eh…. More Ruins
Beside this main site, there are several smaller houses dotting in the jungle around. Basically speaking, Choquequirao was built on the rather narrow peak of this mountain, so we can have awesome views of the mountains around you! WOWO!
PIC 20. From the Top of the Mountain You Can See Kunalla Village
You hike up to Choquequirao from the camp side and the llama section is on the other side. Below the llama section there is a river roaring through the valley. If you get there early in the morning, you will have the chance to see the rainbows formed by the vapor of the river. Near the llama section one of our friends saw wild deer, two of them. WOWO!
PIC 21. The Sign Shows the Way to Llama Sector
You can go down to the official camping site where there is good facility to camp for tonight.
PIC 22. I Know It Was Beautiful. 🙂
PIC 23. Some Peruvian Travelers We Met
PIC 24. Not Just the Site, the Mountains around It Were Stunning!
Day 4 Choquequirao – Marampata – Santa Rosa Baja/Playa Rosalina
I know, now after visiting this awesome Incan site, you are totally satisfied and believe that life is beautiful! WOWO! Now it is time to go home. You can of course trek back to Kiunalla, but you can also track to Cachora through another route, “the safer way” where most trekkers take. We did trek to Cachora, just to have some different views.
From the offical camping site to Marampata takes about 3-4 hours. Marampata is a village of sizable population, with many shops, hostels and mule service possibilities. From this day on you will see a lot of mule shit on the road. There are tourists who visit Choquequirao in a rather luxurious and relaxed way. For example, we met a Canadian group of six people, composed mainly of rather elderly people. They hired more than 10 mules to carry their luggage and cooking wares, a guide, a cook and several people to tend to the mules. Importantly, from Choquequirao one can also hike to Machu Pichu, a track which will take 7-9 days. This Canadian group was intending to do that.
PIC 25. The Checkpoint at the Beginning of Marampata
PIC 26. Stop to Appreciate the View
PIC 27. Marampata Village
PIC 28. Marampata Has Mule Service
Since you leave Choquequirao official camping site, there will be signs after every kilometer to tell you how far you are from Cachora, the first rather big town on this route.
From Choquequirao to Marampata the route is rather flat, passing a major waterfall, a bridge and countless mosquitoes. From Marampata onwards there are more human settlements, shops, water sources. We felt that the first two days were so refreshing compared to this way. From Marampata to a place called Santa Rosa Baja it takes about 2-3 hours trekking. When you are near Santa Rosa Baja the route becomes downhill. Santa Rosa is a village with two parts, Santa Rosa Alta and Santa Rosa Baja, so the former is upper while the latter is lower. Santa Rosa Alta is compsed of less than 10 houses. Yes, it is rather BIG! WOWO! 😀 Santa Rosa Baja has only two houses, both being commercial camping sites. The owners of one camping site is Wilson and the other site Elizabeth. We heard nice things about Elizabeth along the way so we stayed in her place. One camping spot is 5 Soles per tent. If you also want a meal, then it is 3 Soles extra. There is cold shower, running water and a kitchen! 😀 There is no electricity but the locals use solar panels, which provides just enough power for light, so you can not charge your electronics here. As a matter of fact, from Kiunalla onwards there will not be any places to charge electronics until you are about 5 hours away before Capuliyoc.
PIC 29. Still Marampata…
Since Elizabeth was too tired and we arrived too late, we offered to cook by ourselves and even cooked for two other guests. I know, we are lovely people. 😀
If you still have time and energy, you can also continue descending to reach Playa Rosalina, which would take another 1.5-2 hours. Playa Rosalina is on the river bank, where again, you find a bridge. This bridge is not broken and at the end of the bridge, on your right side, there is a free camping site with toilets and running water! 😀 There is an old gentleman who is the administrator.
PIC 30. Choquequirao Overview
PIC 31. Choquequirao Is Situated on the Top of A Mountain
Day 5 Santa Rosa Baja/Playa Rosalina – Capuliyoc – Cachora
Once you leave Santa Rosa Baja, you will continue the way to descend until you reach the bridge. Then it is time to…… hike up again! 😀 I know it is very exciting! 😀 This is a long way up. It takes 5-6 hours. 1 hour after the bridge there is a shop and a bit more up there is a restaurant. In this restaurant you can charge your electronics for 2 Soles. Sometimes the path gets rather flat, but don’t be deceived! It soon goes uphill again until you reach a high-up mirador, then the road becomes flat. From the mirador you can see Capuliyoc just about 1 km in front of you, In Capuliyoc there are two houses, serving as shops and hostels. If you want to camp for free, there is also a protrusion of the mountain behind those houses, which has rather thick grass and can serve as camping ground.
PIC 32. On the Way to Capuliyoc
PIC 33. Still on the Way to Capuliyoc
PIC 34. Eh…Still on the Way to Capuliyoc
Importantly, not only can you eat and sleep in Capuliyoc, you can also ask the old lady there to call a taxi for you, so a taxi can come and take you all the way to Cachora, where there are collectivos (cars or minivans) going to Cusco or Abancay.
I did not ask for taxi since i arrived in Capuliyoc rather early. After eating a chocolate bar, I felt energized again, so I walked towards Cachora, which takes aboout 2.5 hours. My friends who were behind me had a huge eal in Capuliyoc and then took a taxi to Cachora. It is possible to ask people in Capuliyoc to call for a taxi for you from Cachora. While you are waiting for the taxi, you can take a rest or a meal in Capuliyoc. Or if you want to spend the night in Capuliyoc. The only two houses there are both hostels, restaurants and shops. Also there is the possibility of camping near those houses on a piece of rather soft grassland. Although at night it can get quite windy. 🙂 I know what you are thinking, the taxi from Capuliyoc to Cachora costs 40 Soles. 😀 More people to share it, the cheaper it is.
On the way I met several people who are doing the track the safer way, which means take a taxi from Cachora to Capuliyoc, sleep there if they arrive late or directly start walking if they arrive early towards Playa Rosalinda/Santa Rosa Baja, overnight there and the next day hike to Choquequirao and then the same way back to Capuliyoc.
PIC 35. Words Can Not Describe It
PIC 36. WOWO!
Day 6 Cachora – Abancay/Cusco
Cachora is a tourist town. It is very small and mainly survive on tourism. There are several guesthouses, rather expensive for Peruvian standard though. In the central square it is possible to camp in front of church San Pedro de Cachora. I did that with two friends. However, it was much worse than camping in the wilderness. Since 4 AM there had been cars passing, honking, dogs barking, roosters screaming and so on…… The security is no concern there. The police station is also on the square. Cachora is the first place on our track to have regular electricity supply, so I charged all my electronics there. 🙂 Beside police station there is a restaurant, which is the only one in town. The old lady who works there is FANTASTIC! Still I must say things here are rather expensive for Peruvian standard. A plate of dinner for 10 Soles/person and a 15 Soles/person breakfast definitely sound like a lot for Peru. However, the breakfast was huge! with jam, bread, eggs, cheese, cereal, juice, yogurt, tea…… yes, for one person! So it is worth it. 🙂
PIC 37. Camping in Central Square of Cachora
PIC 38. The Only Restaurant in Cachora
PIC 39. And Its Wonderful Mistress
PIC 40. Who Prepared A Huge Breakfast for Us
From the church if you walk up the street, you will find several cars/minivans parked there. These are the collectivos to Cusco and Abancay. They depart when there are sufficient amount of passengers.
Since Cachora is about 3 thousand meters above sea level and surrounded by waters, so it is quite cold at night. Get prepared!
Whether you take the safer way or the wild way, the biggest challenges are the same, MOSQUITOES and COLDNESS!
Yes, from Kunalla all the way to somewhere near Capuliyoc, there are an enormous amount of mosquitoes! Sometimes I wonder what they are doing out there. After considerate amount of contemplation, I concluded that they were there to wait for you, and your sweet human blood! Every time we took a break, we would be overwhelmed by them. Therefore, it is better to keep moving! We developed an Inca dance to keep our bodies moving while taking a break. It is nice! You should see it! You will be amazed by our choreography skills. 😀 Moreover, those little bastards named ‘sandflies’ do not only exist in New Zealand! They are also here! Lurking on the path to bite you, badly! MOSQUITO REPELLENT IS A MUST! Guess what? We had no idea of this. I thought:’two to three thousand meters high, in autumn. It must be too cold for them to live!’ No! I was so WRONG! Both during the day and night they are active. We brought no repellet or incense and were biten so badly that we sometimes had scratch attack at night. More than once I woke up in the middle of night, wondering about the future of human race!…… because the bites were to itchy for me to fall asleep……
PIC 41. Underway
During the day it can get rather hot, but do not be deceived! It is rather high altitude and in the mountains with much water. Therefore, at night is is cold! If you can, bring both a sleeping bag and a yoga mattrass. All of group members experienced untimely awakening at about 3 AM simply because it was too cold. Then we fell asleep again at about 4:30 AM. One of the girls could not even fall asleep at night because of the coldness. She could only sleep when the sun came out to warm up the air. Not surprisingly, she was always the last one to get up and we all said to her ‘Oh you sleep so much!’ No, that was not true. She could only sleep 2 hours per day. 🙂
Moreover, wasps can also be annoying. We were followed by one while hiking from Playa San Ignacio to the official camping site. I had to kill it because it just did nto give up.
PIC 42. Still Underway
Food and Water
It is never difficult to find firewoods. Therefore, it is easier to bring your pot and raw food than bring only cooked food. Only from Kunalla to Marampata there is no chance of getting supplies, which is day 1, 2 and part of 3. From Marampata there are many shops to buy basic raw food such as rice, vegetables and eggs. Oh, importantly guys, kill your camp fire when decamping. If you do not have much water for this purpose, leave one group memeber at the end to pee on the fire. We did that and it worked perfectly. 😉 😀
It is necessary to carry water if you can not drink natural water from the creeks, waterfalls or springs. However, if you do not have problem with natural water, as all our group members, then it is unwise to carry two much water all the time. Water bottles are heavy. From Kunalla to Playa San Ignacio there are natural waters easy to find. You can just carry limited amount of water and drink natural water whenever you encounter it. From Playa San Ignacio to the official camping ground there is no obvious water sources, so you DO NEED TO CARRY MUCH WATER! Also because it is the hardest part of the whole track, involving much hiking uphill. However, once you are near the official camping site, that means unlimited water supply is within reach. Inside Choquequirao archeological site itself there is no water supply. I know the Incans built an awesome aqueduct, which was a major civilization achievement! But it is dry. The water source of the aqueduct has been harnessed by modern plumbing. From the official camping site to Cachora, there are many natural water sources. We saw locals hiking this way with only an empty plastic bottle. They simply drank whenever encountering water sources. In this way they do not need to carry water at all.
PIC 43. Fanny the Baptist
PIC 44. I Promise This Is the Last Photo……
With all the dangers stated, I must add that this is the COOLEST THING I have ever done in Peru! So yes it is totally worth it. As long as you are a normal person, even you have never been to such high altitudes, you can make it. One of us had a heart condition, another afraid of high altitude, another suffering from altitude sickness and urine infection. Even so we still safely made it. Therefore, do not overestimate the difficulty. The views are stunning! The opportunity to get a close contact with nature is amazing!
1. Since I am not your dad or caretaker, it’s your own responsibility to choose to do this trekking and camping and take care of your own safety.
2. Photo credit of all the pics here belongs to me. All rights reserved
3. If you discover changes in bus fare or other information, please let me know and I will update it. Thanks!