Ow Ow Choquequirao – [Video]

Hallelujah we made it! We recently got back from trekking to Choquequirao in Peru. It was amazing, but really difficult. And since that’s the vaguest description of a trek (or anything) ever, let me explain.

…Right after you check out our suffering on film!

What Is Choquequirao?

Are you sitting there going WTH is Choquequirao? Ya? Oh, you aren’t? Just humor me while I start at the beginning then…mostly because I didn’t even know that this place existed, nevermind what it was, until a few short weeks ago.

The short answer is that Choquequirao is an Incan site. And being true to the Incas’ style, it’s hidden away in the Andes Mountains. Like right in there.

Choquequirao is Machu Picchu’s plainer, but much bigger sibling. Whereas Machu Picchu was a glorious ceremonial site with it’s many different temples and insanely impressive rockwork, Choquequirao was an administrative hub with much simpler, rustic buildings. Instead of temples, Choquerquirao has meeting houses and llama sectors. But please, don’t mistake its lack of temples for being boring or unimpressive. 

It’s far from that. 

view from above

 
the llamas in the llama sector
  
just a little flower growing out of an Incan gutter
  
Llama Sector!
 
 
Getting to Choquequirao 

There’s only one way to get there and that’s by foot. Choquequirao is a 2 days walk from Cachora (a tiny town with a snow capped backdrop that’s a 3 hour drive from Cusco).

  
Having done the trek now, I think it would be easy enough to do it yourself – although there is NOTHING easy about this trek – if you have camping equipment and don’t mind carrying it for 4 days.

But since Matt and I aren’t mules…and especially since we aren’t equipped with anything (we even sent our sleeping bags home…which is actually proving to be a bad decision), and since we truly value the expert knowledge of a guide (basically so we know what we’re looking at), we decided to go with a professional trekking company

We went with Choquequirao Trek and would totally recommend them. They’re based in Cusco near Plaza de Armas and more specifically near the the 12 sided Incan rock.

But there are lots of companies in Cusco that offer the trek, and most will set off with only a day or two’s notice. I would strongly recommend arranging the trek in Cusco, rather than online beforehand. You can get a better sense of the company, and probably get a better price when you do it in person. The companies that we looked at ranged in price from $250 to $550 USD. The company we went with was in the lower-middle of that range.

About The Trek

If you’re not in half decent shape, this trek will be killer and you’ll probably have to ride the poor horse most of the way. That’s another benefit to going with a tour: you get an emergency horse!

Seriously, this was the hardest trek that we’ve done – and probably the hardest trek we will do because as it is, I have little aspirations to do anything harder.

 

just going to climb up and down this canyon. Twice.
 
Why was it so hard? 

Oh let me count the ways!

The trek is down and up a steep canyon! Then back down and back up the same damn canyon.

The canyon that’s in that picture up there. Ya. 

The first day you walk down a mountain for hours and hours and hours. Your legs turn to jell-o. Then after lunch, and after you reach the bottom of the canyon and cross the bridge, you get to walk up super steep switchbacks in the blazing sun! Good luck if you don’t bring a hat – you must be an idiot like me. My face was so hot I thought it was going to burst into flames. 

Once you somehow survive walking up the steep, dusty, rocky trail for a few hours, you’re rewarded with an Incan shower at your camp site. Basically, it’s really cold. Like don’t let the water hit your back or you won’t be able to breathe – and you’ve already had enough breathless moments for today, trust me – cold.

But take advantage of the shower because it’s the warmest the showers will be. It was my first and last shower until I returned to Cusco 3 days later (BLAH).

On the second day, your legs hurt like hell, obviously. And if they don’t, you didn’t work hard enough on day one! Go back and do it again ;). No matter how much sleep you got the night before, it doesn’t seem like enough – not for your weary body, anyway.

But you drag yourself out of your tent – maybe it’s raining like it was for us – and have breakfast. Then you’re off. 

Back uphill! 

Oh sweet baby Jesus, have you no mercy!?!?!

This was the absolute worst day for me. I almost burst into tears because my daypack felt like it was getting heavier and heavier with each stupid slow step. Also it’s amazing how your normal feet will turn into cylinder blocks. Who knew!

In the morning of day 2, I made a silent vow that I’m never trekking a canyon again. It’s horrible – horrible with a string of very forceful swear words! 

By day 3 though, I was thinking about how I’d really like to hike the Grand Canyon one day.

What is my problem!?

Eventually, you’ll reach the top of the mountain. Have a snack, sure, but don’t get too excited because you’ve got another 3 agonizing kilometres to Choquequirao.

It took us about 2 shameful and painful hours to walk those 3 kilometres. 

Somehow we enjoyed the hike. 

 

we’re having SO MUCH FUN. but really, we are!
  
just over there…that’s where we’re going
  
it’s worth it for the views – always!
  
we’re so close! like 3 kms away!

 
Somehow. Look, we did the 4 day hike in 3 days by lobbing off the first and last 11 kilometres to and from town, and also nearly dying of exhaustion in the 3rd day. We literally had to walk down and entire mountain and up another entire mountain. Unless you’re really in a rush, don’t try to be a hero. 

Just relax and enjoy the views. 

 

we just finished climbing down that zig zag behind me
 
 
the enterance to Choquequirao
  
the main plaza with the Inca’s house in the backgroind
 

What to Pack For Choquequirao

This packing list is for the person who is going with a tour for the 4 day/3 night trek. I don’t have the first clue about what you need to bring to do it yourself. 

Clothes:

  • Daypack with rain cover (just in case) – try to get one with hip straps to take the weight off your shouldes
  • 3 pairs of underwear (unless you’re good with wearing one pair multiple times)
  • 3-4 pairs of socks (quick dry is ideal)
  • 1 pair sturdy running shoes/hiking boots (I wore trail running shoes and was fine.)
  • flip-flops or crocs for camp/showers
  • 1 long sleeve shirt for hiking in (to keep the sunflies away from you)
  • 1-2 t-shirts 
  • 1 pair lightweight pants for hiking in 
  • 1 fleece/sweater for the cold nights
  • 1 sarong/quick dry towel for the shower 

Other:

  • 2 litres of water, you can refill or buy at camp sites
  • money – more than you think so you can buy gatorade, snacks if you want, and for tipping your guide, chef, and horseman
  • sunscreen
  • 1 bottle of bug spray with deet (doesn’t work on sunflies though)
  • toothbrush and toothpaste 
  • Soap
  • wet wipes to use as toilet paper, for your hands (instead of hand sanitizer) and face, and all kinds of things
  • granola bars/snacks for in between meals

Optional:

  • favoured drink crystals if you don’t like the taste of boiled water
  • first aid kit if you like that kind of thing (like Matt does)

– Cyn and Matt

Desert Love [Video] – Wanderlust Adventures to Punta Gallinas, Colombia

The relentless wind, the whipping sand, the never ending bumps in the desert road, the waves that made it impossible to swim where the desert meets the ocean, all things that could have tainted this 3 day desert trip. But they didn’t.

At all.

In fact, it was the harshness of the environment – the relentless wind, the whipping sand, the never ending bumps in the desert road, the waves that made it impossible to swim where the desert meets the ocean – that opened up my heart.

  
The desert, I think, has a way of humbling you that no other environment on earth can. Every sip of water you take makes you realize that the desert could swallow you up in a heartbeat.

Despite the lack of freshwater, the lack of shelter from the wind, the lack of shade from the beating sun, people were living there. I was and still am in complete awe of that.

  
My heart swells when I think of our trip to Punta Gallinas in Colombia. For me, it was a sort of pilgrimage to the most northern point on South America, a spiritual awakening, I suppose you could say.

  

Our desert adventure started in the wee hours of a dark morning. I watched the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. 

The Sierra Nevada mountains were cloaked in mist. A huge grapefruit pink sun slowly burned the mist away and set the sky ablaze. Against the fiery pastel sky, the mountains stood tall and proud. 

The native Kogi people call these mountains the Heart of the World. In that moment, I knew why.

I felt like every part of the trip was like that – a gift from nature, herself. Gorgeous landscapes, towering sand dunes, cliffs falling into the sea. 

  

 

  

  
But enough of my words and explanations, they’re failing us here, you and me.

Matt put together a charming little video, showing you the best parts The Guajira Desert as we made our way to the extreme north ofSouth America – Punta Gallinas.

As I wrote home after the trip: We drove through the desert for 3 days, slept in hammocks, swam where the desert meets the Caribbean Sea, showered under the brightest stars I’ve ever seen, bribed indigenous people with bags of water to let us pass through their land, played soccer with a little boy who lives in the desert, made friends with German girls who became our translators, found skeletons of various animals, saw tons of desert goats, learned about the illegal trafficking of Venezuela’s gas in Colombia, climbed sand dunes, got pelted by sand during a wind storm, got sunburnt and windburnt…

…and finally, finally stood on the most northern point of South America.   

 

If you want to go to Punta Gallinas, we highly recommend going with Expotur instead of going alone.

– Cyn and Matt 

It’s hard to put this trip into words. Since mid-June, I’ve been struggling to find an appropriate way to tell you about – a way that describes the feeling inside of me. That trip changed me.

Why We Chose Expotur and Didn’t Go Alone to Punta Gallinas, Colombia [Video]

Punta Gallinas. As soon as we decided we weren’t going to go to Brazil, a place we’d never heard of suddenly became a focus for our South American travels. We decided that our new mission was to travel to the most southern point in South America.

And to round it out?

We’d start at the most northern point in South America. And that point happens to be Punta Gallinas, Colombia.

Getting there would be a mission. A 2 day through the desert kind of mission to be exact. And of course, we’d need one day to get back. 

so windy, sandy, and hot!

It’s possible to get to Punta Gallinas independently. You can find the directions on Trip Advisor. A guy at a tour company in Santa Marta told us exactly how to do it and let us know the transportation costs. 

If we DIYed the trip, it would cost us each roughly 320.000 COP to get to Punta Gallinas. That’s strictly for transportation and thus didn’t include accommodation or food or water. 

Water which:

(a) we need to survive 

(b) is scarce in a desert

(c) would be extremely expensive to buy because of point b.

We’d needed to bring water with us. And I don’t know about you, but we couldn’t carry enough water for 3-5 days.

We started shopping around for a tour company that could take us. One that we went to said 650.000 COP per person (nearly $250 USD) — and they needed a minimum of 8 people. Insane! Currently they had a whooping zero people signed up to go. No wonder, eh?

Ultimately we found Expotur, a tour company in Santa Marta that would take us to Punta Gallinas for 450.000 COP. And if we booked the Lost City trek with them (something we were going to do anyway), they’d give us a discount on the Punta Gallinas trip. We negotiated a little more and ended up with a price we were really happy with.

Honestly, we probably saved money or at the minimum broke even compared to if we DIYed the trip.

We decided to go with Expotur to do the tour to Punta Gallinas because:

  • they gave us a great deal
  • the woman we were dealing with (Heidi, if I remember correctly) was really professional and nice to us
  • the group would be small (only 6 people including Matt and I)

 You can get a great deal for the tour to Punta Gallinas considering it will include all food, accommodation, transportation and side trips, and a guide. 

Plus, having 24/7 access to a jeep meant that we could bring water from Santa Marta – running out of water was a huge worry for me. 

Was it worth doing a tour? 

Absolutely!

As we watched independent travellers laying in their hammocks for hours on end to escape the blistering desert sun while willing the day away so they could leave the next day, we piled into our jeep and headed out to a salt water lake and played desert football with a little kid. We wouldn’t have had that experience otherwise. So for us, the tour was worth every peso – there was never a dull moment! 

 

Punta Gallinas, the most northern point in South America, is definitely as much about the journey as it is about the destination. We had an amazing time and are so glad that we chose to go with Expotur.

— Cyn

Visit The Actual Equator in Ecuador

When you hear the word equator, what do you see? A tropical paradise? A perfect line that divides the world in half? Yourself, straddling the Northern and Southern Hemispheres?

How about Ecuador? 

What, no takers? 

Well, you can add Ecuador to your list of things to picture the next time to you hear the word equator. After all, the country was named after the famous diving line!

the equator
that’d be the equator

Of course, when we were in Ecuador in July this summer, we just HAD to take a little trip to the equator. Afterall, I’d been dreaming of standing in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres AT THE SAME TIME for as long as I can remember! 

Just joking, I hardly thought about it…

But being just a short drive away from the actual equator, a spark was ignited and I wanted to be in two places at once. That, my friends and family, has been an actual dream of mine.

Because it’s cool! And not something you can do everyday.

Cynthia laying on the equator
I had an overwhelming urge to lay on the equator
Cyn and Matt standing on the equator in Ecuador
selfie on the equator in Ecuador

We didn’t make a special trip just for those fantastic photos, although you could if you wanted to. We went as part of a day trip from Quito with Community Hostel

It might be worth a seperate trip, but I do think it’s pretty cool to be able to aay that we stood on the actual equator.  

Oh, and we also saw someone propose there! Awwww how cute! 

– Cyn