February 2018

A hidden Incan gem in the Peruvian Andes

By: Mads Hørkilde
Projects Abroad Volunteer

Travelling in and around Peru you will most likely hear a lot about Machu Picchu. It seems like everyone who is going to or coming from Peru are focusing on UNESCO´s world wonder, but you do not necessarily have to follow in the footsteps of everyone else.

Machu Picchu is without a doubt the biggest and most popular tourist attraction in the whole of the former Incan kingdom, and with good reason. The ancient Incan ruin stands as a testament to a lost time, but if you think of going there you will not be going alone – reaching around 2.500 visitors a day, Machu Picchu is swarming with life from when the gates open in the early morning, right up until they close in the afternoon. It surely makes for a challenge to picture an Incan dragging his llama across the main square, when a group of tourists is bending over backwards to get the perfect selfie in the midst of it all. However if you remain determined to get a glimpse of the mysterious remainders of the Incan kingdom, but you are not too keen on joining the rest of the tourists at Machu Picchu, there are other possibilities for you to explore.

One of them is Choquequirao. The lesser known ruin – which presumably worked as a village for the priests of the Incas, is situated outside of Cusco, and is well hidden in the green hillsides of the Peruvian Andes Mountains. Here you will pretty much have the ruins for yourself to explore and enjoy, with only around 25 visitors a day in late winter and early spring. It is not completely without a reason that Choquequirao does not get the same attention as Machu Picchu, whereas the latter is easy accessible from various different types of transportation, the only way to reach Choquequirao is by a two-day hike through very tough terrain. Here even an experienced hiker will be challenged by the ever changing slopes of the Andes, and a comfort seeking tourist by the modest accommodations along the trek.

All the challenges and the scary amount of kilometers, are all justified when standing at the top of the ancient ruin, where it is actually possible imagining the old Incan people walking around the several hundred year old buildings. Here you will not encounter tourists pushing ahead of you to get the best view – instead you will find that there is a shared admiration and sense of respect the visitors in-between that comes from knowing that everyone here at the summit, have been through the same grueling two days of walking all day and sleeping on the ground at night.

The ruin itself consists of a main square from where it is somewhat easy to navigate from – however there is a genuine chance of getting lost, since vegetation is growing wildly and uncontrolled among the ruins. Other than the main square, the complex also contains terraces that have been used for growing corn – here it is possible to crawl all the way to the bottom where there is a small "mirador" from where you can enjoy a very unique mosaic depicting the life story of the llama in white limestone. Behind the main square, hidden behind bushes and trees, is the water temple, where it is possible to witness the clever ingenuity of the Incans, by studying the many watercourses running through the entire ruin. In the complete opposite direction from the water temple, crossing back over the main square, there is a big elevated sacrificial place. Crawling to the top, you will find the most spectacular view of the surrounding valley and the Apurimac River running through the landscape, more than 3000 meters below you – if you are lucky a condor might fly over your head.

The journey itself takes its starting place in Cachora where it is possible to stock up before heading out. Here in this sleepy village it is also possible to hire a horseman to help you transport your gear, or get a guide to help you navigate the treks and serve you with interesting information about the incredible nature, wildlife and the ruin itself – it has to be said that the treks are not difficult navigating, so there is no need to be worried about getting lost. The families living along the small paths are also very friendly and more than willing to help, most places it is possible to buy a meal or a snack and camp in the backyard – however running water and toilet facilities are not a given.

If you like adventure and a challenge, and you have grown tired of overcrowded tourist attractions then you should consider swinging by Choquequirao, where you are guaranteed to be blown away by natural untouched beauty in the remote Andes Mountains of Peru.

This group seems to take some malicious delight to bring her public to laugh about social issues. They are made of mime (an art not so frequently performed), an intergenerational show which is perfect for all ages. [...]
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