South America | Peru | Southern Peru – Choquequirao
[I just had to make a very own page on the hike to Choquequirao even though it is part of another trip. There’s just so much to write.. and Choquequirao is well worthy its own page in my Peru diary.]
We left Cachora Friday morning the 26th after having had a quinua breakfast, only about an hour after we planned. We; that is Jerónimo, Fredy (the local guy who knew the way + would take care of the animals), Paty (the mule), Horse (none of us knew his name), and I.
I was still a bit sick even though I was better – I had been really bad just a few days before, that’s why we brought along Fredy, Paty and Horse. That way I could walk downhill and ride uphill. AND the mule would carry all our stuff – tent, water, food, camping gear and some clothes. I was pretty happy with the arrangement, after all the hike went alongside, then down to the very bottom, and then up the other side of the deepest canyon in the world.
(To those of you who think the Grand Canyon in the US is very impressive, I’d just like to say that Peru has three canyons that are even deeper.)
The first bit of the hike was really easy. We walked out of Cachora and towards the canyon Apurímac. (I know it’s confusing, but yes there is a region called Apurímac, the canyon in this region is also named Apurímac, and then the river at the bottom of this canyon is of course the Apurímac river.) We felt unbelievably light walking without our backpacks. The mountain peaks both to the left and right were stunning.
When we reached Capuliyoc we saw a condor at not too far a distance. We could also have made out Choquequirao from there, but we didn’t know that then. In fact, had we had binoculars we would have seen the ruins fairly well. Anyway, Fredy wasn’t of the talkative type and didn’t bother inform us of such things. He didn’t say much about anything actually. He made sure Horse and Paty walked at a good speed. He did the hike in sandals made out of old tires, a patched up pants (the kind you could wear to the office when new), a worn out soccer t-shirt, a dirty knitted sweater, and a little backpack made out of jean-fabric with seemingly nothing but half a litre of some very sweet, very artificial colored soda in it. Jerónimo and I noticed that he had friends along the way to our relief; he got food and shared a tent with some other guys (also from Cachora who were handling the mules of a whole group of people). And Fredy sure didn’t lag behind!
From Capuliyoc we started walking downhill. I was doing really well and didn’t feel bad at all. It was pretty steep and sunny. The climate was optimal. It wasn’t raining, it was green after the rainy season, and it wasn’t too hot yet for walking around noontime.
We stopped in Chikisca for a break and to eat something. There we met some others, but we didn’t really talk to them, just exchanged some smiles and a hello. After almost two hours we got up to leave. There was a short walk down to the Apurímac River. Three Peruvians who were studying tourism decided to camp right by the river, they had carried all their gear and were really exhausted. We crossed the bridge and went from the region of Apurímac to the region of Cusco. I felt like a queen riding up the canyon and somehow it made me think of br?drene L?vehjerte (the Lionheart brothers) riding through Nangijala.
Shortly before the sun set we got to Santa Rosa where we camped.
The next day we packed down our stuff – Fredy stressed us into a hurry because he wanted to leave when his friends were leaving – and we made it towards the top. At Marampata we left Fredy, Paty, Horse and most of our stuff. Only took water and some lunch before we made for the last stretch towards the ruins. More uphill and a little downhill, jungle vegetation and crossing a stream without a bridge (the bridge had been washed away during the rainy season). The plan was to walk to Choquequirao, spend the day there, get back to Marampata before dark and camp there. Fredy said he would set up our tent.
When we got to the ruins of Choquequirao it was about noon. We were the first visitors that day. There was nobody else there, and we felt like we owned the city. After a while a man came and asked us to pay the entrance fee; s/.3 for me and s/.10 for Jerónimo. He also told us some facts about the place. And then we were free to walk around as much as we liked. It was amazing; we walked up to a circular place up on one side and just enjoyed the sight of the canyon and the river twisting far beneath. The view left us breathless.
After a while a group of people arrived, we had exchanged a few words and nods with them the day before when we had lunch in Chikisca. A French girl and a Belgium boy (or I guess they were adults, older then me anyway) who’d brought along a shaman, his student, a friend of the shaman who just came along for the ride, and a man and a boy from Cachora to take care of the animals. Except the last two they’d all come directly from Cusco the day before. The two foreigners had paid for a shaman ceremony and to drink Saint Peter, which is some kind of hallucinating drink made of the plant Saint Peter, and we were invited join them.
They told us they were going to camp in the ruins. For a little money the boy from Cachora went to get Fredy, Paty, Horse and all our stuff so that we could camp there too. If we wanted to we could pay and both have some Saint Peter too, but we weren’t too into paying as it was pretty expensive, so we said “yes thank you” to just watching the ceremony.
I don’t think there is such a thing as a coincidence.
1. Jerónimo and I had talked about seeing a shaman, but since I was sick we decided on taking it easy and just do the Choquequirao trek. It seemed too well timed that a shaman would be doing that same trek just when we were, seen that we left later then planned from both Abancay and Cachora.
2. The shaman’s friend had been married to a Norwegian woman, and had lived in Norway for many year in the same neighbourhood where I last lived
3. The French girl was a Reiki master.
Thinking back it could look a bit strange that we didn’t grab the opportunity to drink Saint Peter and really be part of a shaman ceremony, but I don’t regret the choice I made. It all had happened so quickly. I didn’t know anything about the Saint Peter plant and its effects, and I didn’t know much about the shaman either. It was an experience in itself to be present at the ceremony and the cleansing rituals, listening to the chants of the shaman and chew coca leafs while joining in on their conversation and seeing the effect the Saint Peter had on them.
As it got late it got cold sitting out and it was nice creeping into a warm tent and sleeping bag. Paty and Horse were happily grazing along the ruins abit away from the tents. We were only 10 people camping there. It felt magical.
The next day we packed up our tent, walked about Choquequirao one last time, and headed back towards Cachora. We camped at Chikisca, and were back in Cachora before noon on the fourth day. On the way Jerónimo got to get a try at riding for the very first time. A bit reluctant to get up (he put it off to the very last day..) but so proud when he sat in the saddle! After 5 minutes he was ready to get back down.
We quickly had lunch in Cachora before getting a ride to Cusco with the shaman, his student, his friend, and a whole load of tree trunks (that soon would be drums) in the shamans old, old Land Rover.
(One more “coincidence”:
The French girl and the Belgian boy decided to stay on in the ruins with only one of the boys from Cachora after we left. That way Jerónimo and I got a ride to Cusco instead of going back to Abancay by bus as we had been thinking of doing.)