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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 1 bottle of bug spray with deet (doesn’t work on sunflies though)
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- 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
- 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