Categories: Hiking, Peru, Trails
Arriving in the cute and friendly town of Chachora we quickly found a safe place for The Hulk to stay while we’d be hiking at Casa de Salcantay. The lovely Johanna welcomed us with open arms and hot coffee with a view.
Johanna filled us in on the trek over dinner and we had nice hot showers before bed so we could get an early start in the morning. The hike starts with a 10km, gentle uphill walk to the trailhead (if you take a tour you would be driven here, smaller vehicles could possibly park here as well, we were glad we didn’t try to drive The Hulk up as the road was washed away in parts and very narrow). Along this easy part of the walk we met Austin from Arizona and we instantly had a new trail friend (he has thru hiked the PCT – poor guy had to endure so many questions from us over the next couple of days) and we made it to the trailhead in 2.5 hours. The start of the hike proper is actually going over the Capuliyoc pass at 2915m and then it’s all down hill to the river. The descent is 1365m over 10km, parts are quite gradual while others are knee knackeringly steep (I highly recommend trekking poles), you pass two campsites on this side of the valley, one with a pretty well stocked little shop if needed. Once at the river we had to register that we were crossing the mighty Apurímac river, we also stopped to eat and have a break in the shade as the sun was out in full force and it was much hotter than I had been prepared for. This is where Dan and I made a little oopsy and didn’t bother refilling our water, despite there being a tap available, we would regret this shortly. As we set off up the northern side of the valley in the heat of the day, we quickly realized that a) this was a tough hike b) we were out of water and c) there is no shade. We really had to just slow down and take our time, stopping often to rest, we were so parched. Finally we made it to the first campsite of Santa Rosa after climbing 2km and 650m, it took us 2.5 hours. We all collapsed at the shaded table of the shop, drank luke warm sodas to get some energy and started filtering the icy cold stream water. While here we met a large group of Peruvians on their way back from Choquequirao, they hike in style, none of them carried a bag or any water for that matter and they sat for about 30-45 minutes drinking Chicha (a maize based fermented beer-apparently an Incan recipe). Dan and Austin both tried it, I wasn’t offered any as I am a women (but wasn’t that fussed to be honest), Dan said it tasted like “the beer that was in the early brewing stages, not bad, but not great”. We carried on a little further uphill once refreshed and camped at the Santa Rosa Alta campsite, where we had a little stream, beautiful views and a million horrid biting bugs.
After a good nights sleep (despite the scratching) the hike up to Choquequirao wasn’t too bad, we climbed another 900m over 10km, some of it flat(ish) to arrive at the Choquequirao campsite. It was pretty cool, we set up our tents on Incan terraces beside the buildings that the archeologists stay in. It was just aftern noon so we had a rest and some lunch then made our way to the ruins, it was so nice to walk without a pack! The ruins were amazing, the site is bigger than Machu Picchu but only about 40% uncovered and we basically had it all to ourselves. Although the stone work is not a “precise” as sites like Machu Picchu the remaining building are in amazing condition. They also recently discovered terraces that had designs built into them, including zigzags and llamas, this section hadn’t been discovered when Dan visited 12 years ago, so it was nice that he got to see something different too.
The next morning we said good-bye to Austin as he would be carrying on over the next pass as a part of his
crazy 15 day trek. We now had to turn around and go back the way a we came, the descent was steep back to the river, and once again so hot, we had a break at the river again and made sure to fill our water (although the water at the river is not as nice tasting as the water from the stream on the north side, I wished we’d refilled at Santa Rosa). We then had a 3km and 400m steep climb to the Chiquisca campsite, we had counted the switchbacks when on the other side of the river and knew that we had 18 to turn before getting to the straight that would lead us to camp. They were 18 stinking hot, dusty switchbacks, the counting helped mentally but my body was not dealing with the heat and neither was the now gross tasting water. Dan was very patient as I stopped in every bit of shade (not that there was much), I was so ecstatic to finally reach camp, that I happily chugged my (once again) luke warm soda. The funny thing is that we were actually making ok time, it was only 1:30pm, but I just did not have the will or the energy to carry on, so even though we probably could have made it out of the valley we opted to be super lazy and lie around all afternoon.
Our last days walk ended up only being 7km and was all uphill but manageable as we made it about half way before the sun caught us, we once again used the “switchback count down” method on our final push out of the valley and over the Capuliyoc pass, where we found some shade and stuffed our faces with Oreos. It was here that we met a lovely German couple who were dropping off two friends to start the hike, they kindly gave us lift back to Chachora, which saved us a lot of time (and energy).
Despite the heat and the biting flies (which probably wouldn’t have bothered us if we’d remembered bug repellent) I loved this hike. Being alone in ancient ruins is pretty neat and knowing that everyone has to put the same effort in to get there makes the reward all the better. This is a very easy hike to do on your own, all the campsites also sold meals (except in Choquequirao) so you could get away with carrying less food if you wanted and you absolutely could not get lost.
Cost for 2 people in USD
Entrance fee $23.00
Typical tour cost $540 per/person
Savings of $$950 (I do hope the tour companies pay their staff well!)