Up one level Peru » Cachora-Choquequirao-Yanama-Machu Picchu

Cachora-Choquequirao-Yanama-Machu Picchu
This trek is a 9 day trip starting from Cachora and ending in Machu Picchu. The route takes us through Choquequirao and several remote villages. We decided to do this combo trip because we wanted to see both Choquequirao and Machu Picchu and we were not keen on two separate trips. Especially since the standard 4 day Choquequirao trip is an out and back trail, which is repetitive.
We went with United Mice and I can't recommend them highly enough. Our guide Edgar was fantastic and it was hard to see how he could have done a better job. The cook Jaime and the trainee guide Ihidio also did a superb job in organizing the logistics of the trip.
We, however, underestimated how strenous this trek is. According to our guide Edgar, this trip (and also Choquequirao) is unpopular because it is hard. He told us that the Inca trail is relatively easy with the highest point at 4200m, and the trail can be done in about 4 to 6 hours by the locals, whereas this trail has significantly more elevation changes, has the highest point at 4550m, and the trail takes the locals about 4 days to complete. We also had to carry our own packs with all our stuff whereas people typically hire porters on the Inca trail. Serene and I overpacked on clothing and other knick knacks on this trip and as a result my pack weighed about 20 kg (44 lbs).
It rained every night and also during the day. Quite a fair portion of the trail was in really bad condition because it was the rainy season and it was a chore to slog through slick mud on steep trails. Also, the rain made several waterfall crossings in the later part of the trip rather perilous and it was quite scary crossing deep waterfalls using slippery logs and rocks. On the other hand, it was rather pleasant hiking in light rain because it kept us cool and our newly acquired clothes made of synthetics dried within minutes of clear skies. I wore the same pair of pants and Tshirt throughout all 9 days and washed them every 3 days or so in a stream or village hose. We never found out how far we walked each day because it appeared that the locals aren't even sure how long it is. On the other hand, we did know the approximate altitude changes during each day.

Day 1 - Cachora (2850 m / 9350 ft) to Huarac Punku (3100 m / 10170 ft) to Apurimac River (1550 m / 5085 ft)  |  Total images: 18  |  Date added: 29 Dec 2004
We were picked up at 430 in the morning and driven to Cachora. We stopped at Tarahuasi near Limatambo where we saw a great example of Inca stonework. Unfortunately we didn't appreciate how fine it was at that time. Part of the road was washed out along the way because of rain storms and we had to get off the van and walk across the flooded part. We arrived at Cachora around 1030 and started hiking around 11. During the entire trip, lunch break was about an hour. The descent was fairly long and we reached our campsite only around 1800 when it was starting to get dark.
Day 2 - Apurimac River (1550 m / 5085 ft) to Choquequirao (3000 m / 9850 ft)  |  Total images: 44  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
The first 5 days of the trek followed roughly the same schedule - wake up at 6, breakfast at 7, start hiking at 8, an hour lunch break at 1, and arrive at the campsite around 5 or 6. The weather started off badly, with thick clouds and rain throughout the entire day till 1600 when it suddenly cleared. As a result, we enjoyed splendid views of and from Choquequirao. Choquequirao was the bread basket for the Inca in the region, we saw extensive terracing from Choquequirao all the way down to the Apurimac river. The most extensive terracing is on the side of the mountain that we descended along the next day to Rio Blanco. There is also a long aquaduct running from the top of Choquequirao mountain to the city. This aquaduct is unfortunately broken. The best part of Choquequirao is that it is mostly deserted and there aren't many tourists there.
Day 3 - Choquequirao (3000 m / 9850 ft) to Choquequirao Pass (3400 m / 11150 ft) to Rio Blanco (1800 m / 5900 ft) to Farm (3000 m / 9850 ft)  |  Total images: 16  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
This day was the toughest day of the hike. Lots of elevation change and the steep trail going up from the Rio Blanco to Victoria pass was very muddy and slick. Most itineraries, including the original United Mice itinerary I saw on their website include camping at Rio Blanco and taking an extra day to climb up to Victoria pass. we compressed 2 days into 1 by ascending to a farm near Minas Victoria. Our guide Edgar told us that the extra day is typically scheduled in for unforseen conditions such as the Rio Blanco being too strong to be forded or the Yanama pass being snowed in. We saw a lot of flowers during the trek, including many wild orchids in the later days when we hike through cloud forests. On our way down to the Rio Blanco, we briefly explored some as yet uncovered Inca buildings.
Day 4 - Farm (3000 m / 9850 ft) to Victoria Pass (4200 m / 13800 ft) to Yanama (3500 m / 11500 ft)  |  Total images: 14  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
Compared to the previous day, this day was almost relaxed. We crossed Victoria pass just after lunch and Serene started to have some mild problems with the altitude but was fine crossing the pass. I'm unsure how high Victoria pass actually is; Our guide said 4200 meters but I've other numbers on the web ranging from 4000m to 4800m. On the way up and down from the pass, we passed several abandoned mines (Minas Victoria) and Edgar brought us into one of them for a little bit. We camped at Yanama village. Yanama village is the most picturesque village that we saw during the trek. It's perched at the edge of a canyon with some spectacular views.
Day 5 - Yanama (3500 m / 11500 ft) to Yanama Pass (4550 m / 15000 ft) to near Totora (3700 m / 12150 ft)  |  Total images: 21  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
We followed the Yanama river through the Yanama valley right up to Yanama pass. The first part of the trail through the valley was spectacular. We saw many large waterfalls on both sides of the valley and the lush greenery made this trail spectacular. We also saw a permanent glacier on the top of Corihuaynachina a we crossed the pass. When we crossed Yanama river to begin our ascent to the pass, our guide told us of a Quechua tradition of bringing a rock from the river to place on the pass. We all took rocks and Bob foolishly took a rather large stone that he had to lug to the top.
Yanama pass is the highest point in the trek and we really felt the altitude at this point. It didn't help that it started hailing when we were 50 meters from the pass. We had heavy rains at our campground that night. We fortunately missed the few feet of snow that came down on the pass, which rendered it impassable.
Day 6 - Near Totora (3700 m / 12150 ft) to Totora (3500 m / 11500 ft) to Collpapampa (Winaypoco) (2800 m / 9200 ft)  |  Total images: 14  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
The remaining days of the trek are significantly easier than the previous days. Edgar told us that the Salkantay to Machu Picchu trail joins our trail at Collpampa. We had an easy hike through Totora village, descending down to the Collpampa where we had lunch. There was a hot spring nearby but only the guide and Mihaela took the steep trail down to it. We camped at Winaypoco, which is about an hour from Collpapampa where there is a beer hut (since the Salkantay trail is more popular than the one we took) but it is only open during the high season.
Day 7 - Collpampa (Winaypoco) (2800 m / 9200 ft) to Lucmabamba (2000 m / 6600 ft)  |  Total images: 13  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
The hike on day 7 was rather easy but we made up for it by having one scary waterfall crossing. The rivers and waterfalls were swollen with water this year (because it's an El Nino year) and the waterfalls that are normally easy to cross were not. We camped at the village Lucmabamba where I acquired a lot of midge bites that itched terribly.
Day 8 - Lucmabamba (2000 m / 6600 ft) to Aobamba Pass (2800 m / 9200 ft) to Hydroelectrica (1850 m / 6100 ft) to Aguas Calientes.  |  Total images: 12  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
Instead of a 2 hour walk from Hydroelectrica to Aguas Calientes, we opted to catch the train instead because we would have to walk along the train tracks in any case. We got up at 4 and started hiking at 6 after breakfast. We first ascended to Aobamba pass where Edgar pointed out a closed Inca trail that led to Machu Picchu after 3 hours walk. We instead descended down to the Urubamba river where we saw a massive hydroelectric station. We stopped at Llactapata on the way down from the pass in the hope of getting a nice view of Machu Picchu, but we were foiled by the thick clouds. That night, we camped at the municipal campground near Aguas Calientes. We walked over to Aguas Calientes to soak in the hot springs and had our first hot shower of the trip.
Day 9 - Machu Picchu.  |  Total images: 53  |  Date added: 30 Dec 2004
We got up at 5 to catch a bus to Machu Picchu at 630. For the first time in the trek, we did not need to carry our packs. As we got on the bus, we noticed that everyone else was sleepy whereas we had gotten used to waking up at 5 or 6 in ther morning. Machu Picchu is, as expected, spectacular. The only problem is the large numbers of people in the site. Fortunately, it was low season and it only started getting crowded around 1000. By the time it started getting crowded, we were heading up Huayna Picchu. I wanted to also hike to the Temple of the Moon but we ran out of time and had to return to Aguas Calientes to catch our train back to Cuzco.