Choquequirao Trail Day 1
After a few days acclimatising in Cusco I was dealing with the change in altitude pretty well.
I packed all the stuff I thought I needed to take on the Choquequirao trail and called it an early night.
The alarm went off at 4am and if you are anything like me this is a time you are more likely see coming home from a night out, not getting up to go hiking!
My pickup was 4:30am in Cusco so I had time to pull myself together, grab some coca tea and get ready for the knock at the door.
This was what I came to Peru for, first stop the Choquequiro trial.
Choquequriao Trail day 1
There were 4 in our group including me along with our 4 mules, the horseman, the cook and the guide.
On the way we stopped for fuel, some food at a local restaurant and a shop for some supplies.
Around 3 hours later, through winding mountain roads, with harsh yet beautify scenery we arrived at Cachora Town to begin the long 4 day hike to Choquequirao.
Choquequirao Trail – Day 1 – Morning
First things first, stretch, apply a load of sun cream and insect repellent, buy some water and get the daypack on…
LETS do this…
Our guide Manuel described to us how the first day of the Choquequirao trail would go. We start with a long decent down from 2850m to 1900m for around 7k. There will be a couple of rest spots on the way and then we stop for lunch.
It will take about 3.5 hours and will depend on what pace we walk, it will be pretty tough on the knees due to the steep drop in height and the conditions under foot.
The Guide and staff – Choquequirao trail day 1
These guys make a great team and have everything covered.
They are used to the trial and know it well which is essential to the way the tour is run.
The horseman and cook have to arrive at each stop before us, set up camp, cook, clear up and then overtake us to be ahead of the game at the next stop point.
That task is no mean feat & I have a lot of respect for what they do, lots of hard work, back to back tours and little time with their families.
I can see the attraction of running the hike though, who wouldn’t love it?!?
The team must meet all types of interesting people on tours, are constantly surrounded by vast natural beauty, changing conditions and varied wildlife.
It must be a real pleasure for them despite the hard graft taking a heavy toll on their bodies!
Anyways back to day 1!
So we set off at a reasonable pace, all keen to impress our guide and not be the worst group ever.
After the first 10 minutes across a bridge and uphill we arrived at the start of the Choeququirao trail.
I have to say I was already puffing a bit in the hot sun.
I thought to myself why didn’t I train harder but surely it can’t be that tough.
A couple of group pics and we were ready to continue.
Looking up to the sky we saw a Condor circling.
According to our guide the condor is one of the Incan’s sacred animals.
Its appearance was a great honour or blessing signifying good luck and safe passage for our trek.
I have never seen a Condor before but that was quite an amazing site to begin our hike with.
Luckily we started on the downhill part.
It wasn’t long before we were bounding down the hill, walking poles in hand soaking up the fantastic views, basking in the sun and chatting to our new companions. These people will all become friends over the next 4 days.
I have never used walking poles before but with a downward hike of 7k to start I was pleased that I had purchased them.
It does take a little while to get the used to a rhythm and to work out what length to use.
(It is better to have the poles longer for going downhill and shorter for going uphill)
Once you have got it, it really helps keep you going and motivated.
Before long we were scrambling out of the path to let our horseman, mules and cook pass with all our extra gear.
You really learn to respect how much effort our 4 legged friends have to put in as they are loaded up and ready to go at a relentless pace.
The length of the hike can be quite deceiving when you are actually walking it as the conditions play a part in the pace you set.
It wasn’t too long before we were at the first rest point point though around an hour into the day.
Our group remained inspired, excited by what we were doing enthusiastic and energetic so after a quick chat, swig or 2 of water and a protein bar we set off again.
I am not sure I could find the words to describe how great you can feel surrounded by mountains in all directions, unspoiled natural beauty and peace in the quiet.
With only the sounds of the wildlife and our footsteps the experience was amazing and there was so much to look at and take in as we continued.
It wasn’t long before rest point 2 and we could start to make out the route we were following down.
More water, another snack and onward bound…
Stop 3 was the lunch stop and the 3rd leg was around 1.5 hours. Things are starting to get a little more difficult now.
I don’t know if you have walked down a steep uneven trail for 3.5 hours?
It is pretty tough going on the legs, add to that it was baking hot and I was carrying quite a heavy bag and you may start to feel a little sympathy.
This hike was going to be tough..
Our guide alternated pace to keep up morale and see how we were getting on.
The mountain just seemed to keep going on and on, every turn lead to another longer steeper path to the next turn and this continued for the duration of the 3rd leg.
When we finally stumbled across the first local village and we realised lunch was just around the corner we already felt like we had achieved something.
The guide caught up again and walked us to our first lunch stop. This would be lunch today but also where we would spend our 3rd night.
It was a decent spot to stop, lots of animals running about enjoying their day and a little shop in case anyone wanted to buy essentials. A chilled spot with nice little set up ready for us to relax a while and enjoy lunch.
Lunch was a much needed refuel and was also really tasty.
Luckily for us we managed to secure the services of one of the best cooks across all the Inka trail tour groups so that was a great result.
After lunch the crew cleaned up for us, boiled water for us to drink for the rest of the hike and headed on to set up our evening camp.
We were told to rest up so that we had some energy for the next more challenging part of the trek so we took a quick nap under the trees.
As the guide had already mentioned it, we were under no illusion that day 1 was going to be the toughest day of the trek and we were about to find that out for ourselves..
Choquequirao trail – day 1 – after lunch
After lunch the 4 of us took up a nice comfy position under the trees to take a break for an hour or so.
I spent much of the time watching the day pass by, observing the environment and listening to the natural sounds of the mountains.
Feeling refreshed and with my energy levels improving it was time to continue down the Choquequirao trail.
We headed towards the to the river crossing and the main bridge that we could see way off in the distance and continued on for about 30-45 minutes.
While we walked we could see the trail on the other side of the mountain across the canyon. It is now it becomes quite clear how hard that hike is going to be.
This part of the trek is a 5k climb up to finish day 1.
Zoom in on the pic below and you can see how harsh that part really is!
After walking downhill for nearly 4 hours the terrain started to become a little more manageable.
Psychologically you start to look forward to the start of the climb even though it looks steep and challenging.
The Bridge Crossing – Choquequirao
We finally arrive at the bridge crossing!! 🙂
This feels like a landmark achievement as it was a really tough start to the first day.
The change in scenery is also quite noticeable as the rushing dirty river flows past flexing its authority and showing the impact of the overnight rain had on the environment.
Our guide told us that there used to be another bridge that washed away in the rainy season a few years before and that hikers had to take a wire suspended cage across the river.
The traditional route out of Choquequirao to Huanipaca was also inaccessible because a second bridge was also destroyed by the river but that one is yet to be replaced.
Isnt that a crazy reminder that nature has ultimate control of your surroundings and should always be respected.
We crossed the bridge and reconvened at the start of the trail up. This hike is really tough, it is 5k of continuously going up along steep, uneven, rocky ground and relentlessly energy sapping.
I tried to stay positive and focused in my mind to just keep going, the more I stop the harder it is.
It wasn’t long before I was focusing on the next turn, hoping it would be the last but then when it wasn’t repeated that thought. It seemed to take for ever to get up that last 5k.
Eventually after what seemed like a day on its own the energy sapping 5k drew to a close around 6:15pm. By now it is starting to get dark.
Hearing that the camp was set up and dinner was close to being ready was sweet music to my ears…
What more can I say, 15k done, food was great, showers were cold and I slept like a log until the rain began…
Want to read about day 2 and the outstanding ruins of Choquequirao; click here
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