September 5, 2015
For general information on the Choquequirao Trek see the previous post.
Day 1 – Capuliyoc, kilometer 10 to Santa Rosa Baja, kilometer 24
Sitting at Santa Rosa camp I can see far above and across the steep valley to where we began our hike this morning.
A taxi picked us up at Casa de Salcantay for the 10K trip along the dirt road that skirts the valley wall and ends at Capuliyoc. Hugo, the arriero we had arranged with the guest house, was waiting for us at 8AM. He bundled up our packs and put them on the mule.
The beginning of the trek would have awesome views of the snowy mountain peaks if it weren’t for the low hanging clouds.
As we descended down through the cloud layer it mostly burned off, obscuring only the very tops of the mountains by mid-morning. Nearing the river bottom, the trail turns the corner and the peaks are no longer in view, clouds or no clouds.
In dry season the brown hills are not so picturesque. It’s more the overall drama of the steep cliffs that make this place remarkable.
I’ve read various accounts on how difficult this trail is. The first 11 kilometers down to the river is along steep switch backs intermixed with more level traverses. While the track is generally wide and well graded the loose dirt makes the descent slippery. Hiking poles are a big advantage.
Along the way down to the river we stopped for a snack at Chiquisca camp. Although the cool green oasis looks pleasant from a distance it’s buggy and unpleasant.
Took us about 3 and half hours to reach the river from the start of the trail. The camp at the river, Playa Rosalina, kilometer 21, is blaring hot with little shade from the bare winter trees. The new bridge, however, was in excellent condition.
The hike up the other side to Santa Rosa is a dusty, steep slog. Again the trail is reasonably well graded, but there are very few level sections to balance the climb up.
We make it to Santa Rosa Baja in another 2 hours climbing very slowly up from the river. The camp has a pleasant grassy terrace.
During the sunny afternoon a shaded bench makes a comfortable spot to hang out and drink a beer – not cold but big – 650ml. The downside is lots of gnatty bugs, some biting that leave welts; be sure to bring repellent though it doesn’t seem to do much good.