September 6, 2015
For general information on the Choquequirao Trek click here.
Day 2 – Santa Rosa Baja, kilometer 24, to Choquequirao, kilometer 31.5
By 4:45AM the group next to us, an organized tour for 2 German women, is already preparing breakfast and packing up. We were a little slower and left camp just after 6:30AM.
From Santa Rosa to Marampata, kilometer 28, the slog up continues. The trail is well graded but climbs unrelentingly. Thankfully it is not as dusty as the previous afternoon. This is the wet side of the valley and although the track is dry, the thick vegetation blocks many of the views.
Just before Marampata the views open up. The camp here has a nice terrace of campsites with sweeping views. The best place to camp, however, is at Choquequirao, another 2.5 Kilometers along an undulating trail. We thought this section would be flatter and easier. In reality, although it is drawn relatively level on most maps the trail climbs and descends without gaining much elevation.
Many viewing opportunities of Choquequirao ruins, perched on the nearing ridge, offer a chance to rest for a moment and wonder at the majesty of this site.
We reached the Choquequirao camp at around 11AM and after quickly staking out a site, headed to the ruins. When you are already tired the hike to the ruins is a slog. We should have brought more water as it was clearing to a bright sunny day with puffy clouds hanging on the mountain tops. The snowy peak just above the ruins cleared with rain or snow over the distant peaks.
For touring the site on our own, Hugo, our arriero, told us to head towards the sacerdote house at the far end of the ruins and then up to Usnu with view overlooking the site in one direction and across the valley in the opposite direction.
Hungry, it felt like an eternity to reach the top, but after we had lunch we began to appreciate this incredible landscape.
The ruins themselves, only 20 to 30 percent uncovered, are not as impressive as Machu Picchu. It is the setting, however, that makes the site a spectacular destination.
The site is spread out up and down across steep terrain which can take some time and energy to navigate.
We did not explore the lower terraces on the front side of the ruins but be sure not to miss the Llama Sector on the back side which is best lit in the late afternoon.
The way down is steep, along stairs or a parallel track, with the llamas starting near the bottom.
There is also a short hike to a viewing platform that gives you a full view of the Llama Terraces.
With all the up and down, if you have the time, it might be worth spending an extra day to rest before tackling the ruins.
The camp at Choquequirao is terraced with open valley views. The tops terrace is narrower and perfect for individual campers. Overall the camp was not too crowded, with just 4 small groups and one other couple hiking independently. The camp has clean bathrooms with a cold shower.
Nightfall comes early but is star-filled.
More pics from Choquequirao: