Jenny meeting the locals
I recently returned from an amazing trip in Peru completing our new Machu Picchu and Choquequirao trek. I’m happy to report it is amazing!
In October last year, I made the decision to change our Machu Picchu itinerary and it was fantastic to be able to come out and experience it first hand. I wanted to make our itinerary longer, harder and more remote and I’m happy to say we achieved that.
We started off with two days in Cusco (3,400m) acclimatising before we started the trek properly. Like most places in the world, Cusco is growing and changing. One fantastic development is the growth in a number of high quality restaurants. Green Point is a stunning new vegan restaurant which offers amazing organic dishes and Quaiso is a great little coffee shop which does poke bowls, soups and really good breakfast. The Avocado restaurant is also worth checking out, I’m a big fan of avocados and Peru has some of the best in the world.
Choquequirao. Visiting this site is the highlight of the trek.
We left Cusco on day 4 and drove to Cachora, our trailhead. Immediately we could see the challenge that lay ahead. In the distance, we could see where Choquequirao sat on a small saddle at a similar elevation to ourselves. The challenge is the huge Apumraic canyon, Peru’s second and the World’s third deepest canyon, that lay between us and Choquequirao. We spent day four descending all the way to the roaring Apumraic river, and day 5 ascending up to Choquequirao, with over a 1.5km of vertical gain! Both days offered stunning views but the real prize was visiting Choquequirao. Having been to Machu Picchu several times now, I was totally blown away by Choquequirao, in my opinion, the two experiences are incomparable. Choquequirao gets a handful of visitors per day and we had the place to ourselves. Machu Picchu is very busy, with over 4000 visitors per day. Although it’s stunning, it has a theme park feel. At Choquequirao you are free to go where you wish and have the time and space to really connect with the site and the Inka culture and traditions. It truly is a spiritual place and I felt very privileged to visit the site and share it with my group.
After a tasty lunch, including my favourite guacamole, we climbed for one hour and then descended for three hours to reach Pinchiunuyocc. This is a stunning campsite where we pitched the tents on Inka terraces. The sunset here was truly stunning. From Pinchiunuyocc we descended to Rio Blanco and then climbed a long steep trail for 6 hours to reach Maizal, my favourite campsite on the entire journey. The sunset from this one family village was truly spectacular. We had an interesting night in Maizal too; at around 3am we were woken by three dogs barking like mad. We soon figured out a skunk had entered their territory uninvited and he sprayed in sniffing distance of our tents; the smell was overpowering! All the commotion eventually woke the rooster up who then decided it was time for everyone to wake up around 3.30am!
Sunset at Maizal
There was a lot of tired bodies the next day on our climb to the Victoria pass (4,150M). The lack of sleep had a big impact and many people found the day tough despite being very well acclimatised. From Victoria pass, we descended to our campsite in the village of Yamana where Niamh and Clodagh got to play with some guinea pigs.
Niamh, Clodagh and their furry friends
From Yamana, we started our final tough day of the expedition crossing the Yamama Pass, (4668m) the highest point on our journey. It was a fantastic achievement for all of us to make as the itinerary was tougher than expected. Although it’s at a lower elevation, because of the huge height gains on several of the days we have classified this trek as level 5, harder than Everest Base Camp and similar in difficulty to Kilimanjaro.
Jenny & Catherine picking coffee beans
After our tough day on the trek, we got to enjoy what I feel is one of the best days of trekking in the world – Totora to Santa Teresa. On this day we get to enjoy the coffee tour, Pachamanka, (a traditional Peruvian cooking method) the hot springs and a few beers in the evening. When we finished our stunning Pachamanka everyone had a food coma, but a good dose of fresh coffee had everyone buzzing and listening to Peruvian house music all the way to the hot springs in Santa Teresa. After we soaked our tired bodies we then came back to our campsite for a few beers and a reenactment of river dance much to the pleasure of the locals. Balance is so important in life and a couple of beers after a week of hard trekking is always a good idea 🙂
The following day we walked into Aguas Calientes with Goska winning the team game of ‘off the ground tig’ on the railway line. The following day we climbed to Machu Picchu and up Machu Picchu mountain. Despite the fact that the remote beauty of the lesser known Choquequirao is unique, Machu Picchu is still a must see. I think what separates Peru from other destinations we visit is how rich the history is here. The Inka’s were incredible people and we can learn a lot from them.
We have so many clients who have never visited Machu Picchu because they like a good challenge while away trekking. So it’s really great to have designed an itinerary that is as tough as Kilimanjaro.
For more information about our Machu Picchu trek get in touch via phone or email!