Day 1 Cuzco, Tarawasi, Chiquisqa
We pick you up at your Cuzco hotel and transfer by van west across the high Anta plain, following the route of the royal Inca Road which led from the capital toward the northern quarter of the empire. After descending into the warmth of the Apurimac Valley, we pass Tarawasi, a former way-station on the royal highway marked by some splendidly-crafted stone terraces. Note: Stops at archeological sites en route to the trailhead will be made if time is available. After crossing the Cunyaq Bridge over the Apurimac River, we climb out of the cactus forests and back into a greener terrain of eucalyptus trees and prosperous farms around the town of Curahuasi. As we continue to gain elevation, the fields of corn are replaced by wheat and quinoa. We leave the main highway 151 km from Cuzco, descend into the village of Cachora and continue north a short distance to the trailhead at 2,905m/9,550 ft. While the wranglers load our gear onto packhorses, we enjoy the astonishing views – the scale of the landscape is immense. We hike about 17 km/10.6mi, to campsite at Chiquisca, 400 m/1,300 feet above the river. We recommend that you bring hiking poles to ease the walking on this long, steady descent. 15 km/9 miles (L,D)
Day 2 Apurimac River to Choquequirao
We start early today to avoid the worst of the heat which fills the canyon each morning. We descend, cross the river on the oroya, and commence climbing out of the gorge. As we gain elevation we pass a few small farms wherever there is reliable water on this semi-arid mountainside. We reach camp (2,865 m/9,400 ft.) in mid-afternoon – early enough for those with energy left in their legs to make the 30-minute climb from the campsite up to the Choquequirao ruins. Most trekkers will happily leave this visit to the following day, as they relax in our camp high above the Apurimac canyon, in the heart of the Andes. Note: some enterprising local farmers offer horses for riding on this long climb up from the river. A typical morning rental cost is US$10. 13 km/8.1 miles (B,L,D)
Day 3 Choquequirao Ruins, full day to explore
We enter the site through a sequence of enormous, precisely-constructed agricultural terraces. Higher up, we emerge onto a broad ceremonial plaza, flanked by fine two-storey structures with tall, trapezoidal niches. On one wall a row of embedded stone rings has led some explorers to suggest that wild pumas were tethered here. An usnu, or sacred platform, occupies a separate ridgetop, reminiscent of the Intiwatana at Machu Picchu. One of the most mysterious architectural elements of the complex is a series of 15 terraces constructed below the main complex, in which 22 figures of llamas are constructed in stone relief. The decorative technique is known from Chachapoyas in the north of Peru but is unlike anything in the classic Inca sites of Cuzco and its hinterland. The pleasures and mysteries of the extensive site reveal themselves gradually to us as we spend a full day here. (B,L,D)
Day 4 Return to Chiquisca
We depart our camp, retracing our route down to the river, then up the switchbacking trail, winding between huge boulders and through a cactus forest to Chiquisca. (B,L,D)
Day 5 Sayhuite / Return to Cuzco
We depart in the morning, trekking the final 15 km to the trailhead and our waiting van. We make a stop at Sayhuite, a cluster of intricately-carved boulders marking a sacred spring on the mountainside. We return on the main highway, once again passing Limatambo and Tarawasi on the 5-hour journey to Cuzco (B,L are included today).We depart in the morning, and make a stop at Sayhuite, a cluster of intricately-carved boulders marking a sacred spring on the mountainside. We return on the main highway, once again passing Limatambo and Tarawasi on the 5-hour journey to Cuzco, with arrival typically in late afternoon. (B,L are included; dinner is on your own).
Included: indicated meals, transport by private van, porterage of up to 12 kg personal gear, communal camp gear including tables and camp chairs, dining tent, spacious sleeping tents, Thermarest sleeping pad, water filter and other amenities. One night hotel accommodation is included.
Excluded: Site fees; personal trekking gear and sleeping bag; tips to guide and trek staff; city services before and after trek program