The treks offered by Cuzco-based tour agencies are numerous. Most involve a visit to Machu Picchu, but there are some featuring lesser-known destinations. I found myself on one of the latter last week--a four-day hike to the small Inca city of Choquequirao.
I made it back (barely) but I can safely say I've NEVER walked that much, through such difficult terrain, ever before. Part of the struggle was due to the fact that I opted to trek it all in three days instead of four, but there's simply no way around it--this tour is tough stuff.
Along with a tiny group, I traipsed a total of 74 kilometers (46 miles) in about 52 hours. Yes, that's an average of almost a mile an hour throughout the entire trip. But what really killed were the elevation changes.
To get to the ruins, you have to descend 1,800 meters (6,000 feet) to the floor of a valley...and then huff it up the same height on the other side! That's two gains of 6,000 feet in two days (one on the way in, one on the way out).
Like I said, death march. But...
...of course, it was worth it to spend three days in the Andes. The landscape? Incredible.
As I seem to be doing a lot lately, I'm going to let my photographs do the talking.
The mountains? Oh, the mountains. Sheer, massive, totally in control:
Our trail wound its way through the peaks, zigzagged its way up and down them, exacting every last calorie of energy from our legs and every last breath from our lungs:
Our camping spot on the second night looked out over terraces, over the valley bottom far below, through clouds, and across to the slopes opposite:
And the ruins. Nowhere near as impressive as I imagine Machu Picchu to be, but there were also only two other tourists there during our visit. Artful stonework, cradled between two shoulders of the mountain, in view of the snowy peaks above:
Sore muscles? Plenty.