Choquequirao Trail Day 2
Choquequirao trail Day 2
So it is another early start, woken up at 5:30am and ready for 12k of walking. Today it was 5k up, 5k up and down and then another 1k up and 1k down to the Choquequirao archaeological site and back.
I am not sure how well I actually slept, it was raining and disturbed. Lucky for me I was woken with a cup of coca tea outside the tent.
Coca tea, Coca tea?? – Choquequirao Trek Day 2
If you have never had Coca tea before make sure to try some while you are there, it is a great way to start the day.
The Coca plant was traditionally used by the Inca to ward off altitude sickness and provided much needed energy while navigating the mountain ranges.
Variations of the plant extract are widely available across Peru, you can buy Coca leaves to chew, Coca sweets and Coca tea for example.
Be careful what you try and take with you when leaving Peru as coca based products can get you in a whole world of trouble. The active ingredient in the plant is used for the creation of cocaine.
Not surprising, a decent cup of that stuff snaps you out of the groggy wake up and makes you ready to start the morning much more quickly that usual in everyday life!
A Coca tea at the door also means I only have half an hour to pack everything up, get ready for breakfast and prepare for a swift departure after that. (possibly why they provide the motivation in the form of coca tea)
Back to day 2
Breakfast was carb and fruit based and a pretty decent eat, eggs, bread, fruit all you need to give you some energy for the trek ahead and snacks were handed out to give you a boost throughout the day, a nice touch..
After the really long day for day 1, day 2 is supposed to be a little easier despite hiking a similar distance.
The added bonus is that the trail is up and down so more manageable and by the end of today we will have reached the Choquequirao archaeological site which is the main focus of my first trek.
With the ache in my stiff legs slightly offset by the excitement, a decent morale building breakfast and some coca tea it was time to hit the trail.
We set off up some steep, demanding trails at the start of day 2, pretty much where we had left off in day 1.
This wasn’t too bad though as it was a good warm up for those slightly stiff and fragile legs and it wasn’t long before I found my stride once more.
The terrain continued to change as we headed higher as we reached the more tropical areas of the mountain.
Landscapes transformed from a rocky dusty difficult trails to rugged and beautiful surroundings, mountains all around, Orchids growing, waterfalls, bridges and a number of small villages along the way.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I managed to see a humming bird for the first time, I didn’t have time to get a pic but that was another majestic first for me along with a hawk circling above.
It is important and motivating to spend some time acknowledging changes in the environment surrounding you, the natural beauty and ambience.
You continue to focus on your hiking, enjoy it and concentrate on achieving your own personal mini goals you set yourself along the way.
(I seek out the next focal point and focus on that, then pick another and focus on that etc)
Before long you can see your main goal far off in the distance.
Check out some of the fantastic pics I have below:
Dont forget you passport!
I didn’t mention on day 1 of the Choquequirao trail but you are required to sign a log book when you reach the entrance to the trail with your name and passport number.
You can substitute this for another number if you can’t remember the passport number but when you get to the main check point on day 2, you need to provide a passport.
This may seem a bit much but it helps the country keep track of the number of people walking the trail and also who they are and where they are from.
When you get closer to the archaeological site the best part of providing your passport is that the kind bloke who examines it also stamps your passport.
Absolute proof that you have hiked the hardest 4 day Inca trail out of Cusco. AWSEOME!
Check this out…
Things are going great for me now, motivation is high and it isn’t far to the lunch stop. This will be our camp site for the night once we have visited Choquequirao.
As we continue along the approach we can start to see the terraces at the bottom of the cliff face heading up the mountain opposite.
What a truly amazing view!
You can see that slowly the terraces have been unearthed as a part of the archaeological process. These terraces are much taller than you would expect, you will see later on in this post.
As I said before the Choquequirao archaeological site has only been excavated by 20-40%, It is crazy when you see the terraces right down the bottom of the mountainside and then realise how far up the main site actually begins.
This fills your thoughts with wonder as you absorb the true scale of what this ancient civilisation achieved.
How the hell did they manage to do that, why would they choose to build this here, how long must it have taken, how many people would they have needed to even think about building this, where would they get their food etc.
These are just a few of the questions you have to ask yourself as you trek along the trail and edge closer and closer.
A bit of history for you – Choquequirao trail day 2
Obviously you have to ask some of these questions and it came as a huge surprise when our guide told us that in Inca times they wouldn’t have had mules or horses to help them carry their bags, tools, family etc to these far out of reach places.
The stones used here were mainly local to the site so that must have been some relief to the people involved but still it had just taken us nearly 2 days to get there with well-trodden paths, the aid of mules, cooks and a guide, without having to carry any food or much in the way of baggage or water and while being able to stop for a rest and a snack along the way.
Mules and horses weren’t introduced to Peru until the Spanish invaded and the Inka became isolated and began to abandon these hugely significant sites.
From the information I was given and in a nutshell…
When the Spanish invaded they arrived on boats, the Inkan people thought they were gods and welcomed them into Peru without a fight.
The Spanish however had other thoughts and with an army holding an advantage in size and with the aid of mules and horses began to conquer the Inkan settlements.
They destroyed their buildings and architecture to show their strength.
Around that time there were 2 brothers who ruled different parts of the civilisation that were in dispute over who should rein over their people.
One of the brothers asked to put aside their differences and to fight the Spanish together but the other decided that he would take over when his brother was vanquished.
Sadly that back fired and the Spanish took over.
Luckily for the Inkan people the Inca in Cusco got word of what was happening and sent out their followers to destroy the paths leading ot he main Inka trails.
There were a lot of different trails regularly used to transport goods, food etc between settlements. This sly move protected many of the settlements from Spanish invasion as they had no idea that these settlements existed.
Choquequirao, Macchu Picchu and a hand full of other sites survived as a result, if the Spanish knew they existed they would be in ruin now.
In the end as supplies run out and word from other settlements stopped the Inkan people were forced to abandon these hugely impressive sites and head for Vicabamba.
Vilcabamba (suspected to be the lost city of the Inka) was the last known place the Incan people occupied until it fell to the Spanish signalling the end to the Inkan resistance in 1572.
Back to Day 2!
This gruelling trail must have been horrendous back in the times it was built, massive respect to the people who built it and to their believes and traditions, to the rest of us it may just seem like a crazy idea… somebody had to do it..
Anyways past a waterfall and round a few more turns and bingo.. the lunch / campsite appears and brings a smile to my face!
Once again an awesome dinner and a nap in the shade, time to relax those muscles and soak up the atmosphere. Perfect.
While we are chllin the cook and horseman clean up and boil up another 14 litres of water for us to take on our journey with plenty of time for that to cool, feed and tend to the Mules and start preparing for the evening meal..
About an hour or so later it is time for us to get ourselves together and get back on the trail, the last 2k return hike to the Choquequirao archaeological site about a half an hour climb away.
Arriving at Choquequirao
We are so close now it is really exciting and I cannot wait to get there.
I seem to have found a little more energy that the rest of the group and get ahead on the trail. I didn’t do anything that hadn’t been done before over the last 2k but to me it felt amazing to be the first of the group to arrive.
I got to see the first buildings of the settlement, the court and the leaders homes.
It feels a little strange being there as I thought that there would be a lot more to see, we trudged through a few buildings and got some great views of the valley but I couldn’t help but think there should be more here..
Guess what.. yeah there was, much much more and some seriously impressive scenes, have a read for a bit longer then check out the images further below!
The crazy thing about all of this is that the archaeologists were excavating near to our camp a kilometre down the mountain.
These initial structures had been discovered much further up the mountain and the main settlement was another 10 mins away and 20 to the top. I cant wait for the next stop especially as there is hardly anyone around..
We wandered up for about another 10 minutes and found an expansive plateau with a wall surrounding it, an area that would have been used to socialise, celebrate and perform rituals.
The view of the main villagers homes, the storage structures, waterways, fountains and plant beds along with the huge terraces that lead their way up to the village was awe-inspiring.
Am I seeing this right, what.. this is in the middle of the mountains, 2 days away from the start of the trail miles away from the nearest actual settlement, what on earth was this place doing here.
Beautiful pics that give the actual site no justice are just below for you, my advice though.. go see it for yourself..
As we headed down from the plateau to the bottom of the village we realised that other than 2 foresters who are tasked with maintaining the Choquequirao archaeological and were leaving to go back to their camp to rest we were alone.
WOW I never thought I would be stood here with just a small group of people and no-one else in the entire site witnessing such a magnificent feat of human achievement from times long past.. mental!
As you can see I did a bit of discovering myself.
The tour add described arriving at Choquequirao as feeling as though you were the first to discover it. I expected much of the to be absorbed by the forest but with the feeling you are alone I think this is a pretty accurate description..
What do you think; check out the pics below:
Aside from a small shower I had a great look around the site.
So another 1k back down as it is getting dark fast, torches out we arrive at the camp site and another well earned meal.
Brilliant day and ready for a decent kip!
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