At the end of May 2008 I participated in a marvelous 16 day adventure in Peru, joining seven other trekkers on a Geographic Expeditions journey to little known Inca ruins at Choquequirao and on to Machu Picchu. We went over spectacular mountain passes, camped for eight nights, trekked up and down, and up and down repeatedly, passing only Quechua villagers (no tourists on this route) and one dazzling vista after another.
Our guides, Clark Kotula and Efrain Valles Morales and assistant Osvaldo Velasco, were excellent. Our arrieros (mule drivers/porters) and cooks, Pedro One and Pedro Two, and 24 animals were invaluable in the success of the trek. We had perfect weather, blue skys, white clouds, lupine in flower tumbling down the mountain sides along with countless other flowers.
Seeing Machu Picchu had been a longtime dream of mine, even better in tandem with Choquequirao. The challenge and difficulty of the trek made the accomplishment all the more rewarding. An absolutely stellar trip!
June 01 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
This entire adventure began with Machu Picchu as the goal. And what an adventure it was. Our route was brilliant, no tourists until we got to Machu Picchu, day after day of stunning scenery, marvelous food, a perfectly paced and planned trip, wonderful companions. The culmination: MACHU PICCHU which remains a mystery almost a century after being discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The complex was built in the early 1400s at an altitude of 9,060.’ Adding to its enigma, it was built, occupied and abandoned within a one hundred year period.
We arrived at 7:00AM to find ruins hidden in the clouds. Soon the sun burned off the clouds and we were guided around the dazzling ruins by Efrain who knows them well. The great adventure was capped by my lifetime dream of visiting Machu Picchu.
May 31 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Lucmabamba to Aguas Calientes
We began the day by bidding farewell to our invaluable arrieros and animals. Clark planned a wonderful ceremony for the tipping and gifts. Each man had a number which, when pulled by one of us, matched a name. That arriero received one of the 11 piles of gifts …. such as shoes, head lamps etc. that we had put together. Tips were given to the guides to divide. Hugging each of them, we sadly said good bye to the helpful and kind men who had made the trip possible for us. Nothing was ever too difficult or too demanding for them. They worked incredibly hard on our behalf.
We set out on another ancient Inca stone path through a grove of coffee and avocado trees. Following the contours of the hills, we followed the Santa Teresa River, up and down through swaths of burgundy grass. A thrilling flock of green parrots flew out of a canyon, we passed through a mossy forest where we saw our FIRST VIEW OF MACHU PICCHU!
The Inca site of Llactapata,discovered in 2003, offered breathtaking views of Machu Picchu seen by very few.
From there, in a sense of euphoria and joy, I felt I was flying a foot above the path to the finish line where the Pedros offered us the best lunch yet and we toasted ourselves with champagne. Well done!!!!
May 30 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Totora to Lucmabamba
On our fifteen mile day we traversed a wide variety of scenery and vegetation following the Santa Teresa River. There were terraces of gigantic corn plants, numerous waterfalls and small streams. Back to civilization in the rural village of Lucmabamba where we saw our first cars in days, schools, shops and stopped for a beer. Our campground was at an altitude of 6,888′.
May 29 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Yanama to Totora
We set off before the sun was up, leaving the village of Yanama at an altitude of 11,381′, trekking along the Yanama River and Valley with majestic spaces, lupine covered hills, mule train after mule train headed in both directions, most loaded with potatoes.
We passed workers planting potatoes as we began to really climb up the winding trail to Totora Pass. It was very steep, grueling, slow going. The pass, at 15,252, was shrouded in clouds when we arrived but the sun quickly shone through. We had reached the highest point on the trek!! From there to our campsite in Totora, at 11,447,’ we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery, lunch by the river. In the evening, a Peruvian barbeque (Pachamanca) for dinner. We had gone eleven miles.
May 28 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Maizal to Yanama
We were up before dawn in order to get an early start for a twelve mile day which included breathtaking scenery when we arrived at San Juan Pass, 14,432.’ Before reaching the pass, there were many stretches of ancient Inca stone paths. We also were fortunate to have such clear views of Pumasillo, 19,800′ along the way. We then began to descend to the Andean village of Yanama where we camped in chilly weather at 11,381.’ Hot water bottles were very welcome that night.
May 27 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Choquequirao to Maizal
This was the hardest day of the trek in terms of physical challenge. First a hike out of the Choquequirao campground to the pass at 10,824′, followed by a descent of 5,592′ to the San Juan River where we had lunch. Then a steep trek up 3,500′ to our spectacular campground on the grounds of a family’s farm. It was a trek of ten miles.
May 26 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Choquequirao and Elizabeth’s 81st Birthday
Beautiful clouds swirling over the mountains when we woke up to celebrate Elizabeth Burn’s 81st Birthday. This was our day to really spend time in Choquequirao “Cradle of Gold” in the Quechua language. This site remains 70% buried under cloud forest, a huge challenge to archaeologists. It is far more extensive than its sister ruins at Machu Picchu. It is thought to have been built during the reign of the Inca Pachacuti, who lived 1438-71. The first excavations began in the 1970s.
May 25 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Santa Rosa to Choquequirao
Rising early we trekked along a rising zigzag trail to the hamlet of Marampata for a snack stop. From there onwards, we saw the ruins of Choquequirao ever more clearly, especially the cascading terraces. Our campground was a mile and a half from the ruins at 10,020′.
May 24 2008 | Photos | No Comments »
Route: Cachora to Capuliyoc Pass down to Apurimac River Gorge, up other side to campground at Santa Rosa
We started out at our campground in Cachora 9,495,’ headed to the Capuliyoc lookout, descended steeply 4,000′ through a forest of differing vegetation to the Apurimac (“Oracle of the Gods” in the local Quechua language) River, back up the other side to our campground amid sugar cane fields in the small settlement of Santa Rosa ………… 6,602,’ a distance of 13 miles.
May 23 2008 | Photos | 1 Comment »