|Cachora, the gateway to Choquequirao from the south|
|Stunning views of the Salkantay range as we hike a few hours from Cachora before sunset|
|Trinity signing her life away, fingerprint included, acknowledging that there are "seasonal dangers on the trail"|
|First glimpse of the bridge and we were envisioning American Gladiator type moves, seriously hoping that our upper body strength wouldn't fail us...|
|...but then we realized they had installed a cable car alternative. Phew!|
|This only shows about half of the mountain across the valley... massive!|
|Choquequirao ruins (at 3100m) - you can barely see the upper part, look hard!|
|Breathtaking view from the top of Choquequirao|
|One of the local guides told us about this "short cut" - climbing up the old Incan canal, Indiana Jones style!|
|Trinity beginning the 1350 meter (4430 ft) descent to Rio Blanco|
|The trail zigzag up the opposite side of the valley to begin the ridiculous ascent|
|Refusing to get out of the sleeping bag with so many mosquitoes around!|
|The old man at Maizal shared potatoes and corn for lunch. The other land owner fled with his family after two huge mudslides in April took out land on both sides of their house|
|This picture is meant to describe the "lone tree" that identified which pass we were going to cross... it is too far away to even show up in the picture.|
|Since we were dripping wet on the ascents, we hung up clothes to dry whenever we stopped|
|The night before we had descended down the left, lush green side, only to ascend even more this side of the valley the following day|
|The view from the top of San Juan pass after Maizal... Shelley catching the last rays of sunshine|
|Trinity and Shelley at the top- Views like this make all the uphill worthwhile!|
|Our new anthropologist friend Carlos from Lima and his faithful Poodle|
|This is one of our favorite times of the day- the alpine glow hitting the glacial peaks|
|The disturbed land from the many slides is prime real estate for the lupins|
|Massive cliffs (and drops) kept our jaws dropped the entire descent to Yanama|
|One of our best lunch spots- roses and glaciers!|
|Towering peaks before Kelca Machay|
|Incan highway, paved with huge rocks, started as we ascended the final pass|
|Looking back through the valley|
|Pack animals are not allowed on the Incan Trails in an attempt to keep them in good shape|
- Seeing a Condor fly 20 meters overhead, definitely the closest we have gotten!
- Following original Inca trails and imagining how much work they were to build
- Since arriving in Peru, buses seem to leave when we want and go where we want
- Home cooked meals along the way- potatoes, eggs, even fresh fried trout in Yanama! (A lot of the local villages have trout farms)
- The squeal of guinea pigs in all the local houses... they are adorable but soon to be eaten!
- A 15 year old girl followed us out of Cachora telling us about local plants and herbs
- After 10 days of silence, Trinity's voice finally came back!
- Taking a video waking up in the morning at one of our more fabulous campsites.. we decided we really need more videos (and we will figure out how to post them at some point)
- Hiking with a poodle!
- One of the best hospedajes, Sixpac Manco, randomly in small town Huancacalle but the Señora made us wonderful vegetarian meals and dished out the cups of tea in her pleasant courtyard garden
- Feeling like the intense climbs were whipping our butts into shape
- Getting praised from all the guides and locals that we passed for how fast we are: "Caminan bien!"
- After getting a lesson from the local girl on plants, I picked some "muña" (mountain mint) to make tea that night. I must have missed something in the lesson (like don't use the flower part?) because my muña wasn't even drinkable
- The steep descents were hard on the knees and ankles, especially with the land falling away from under you
- Being back in the land of free-roaming cows, they still shake me up a bit since we got charged outside of Cochrane
- Camera died on the last day- luckily we still had the Droid (which we have been using with additional navigational tools but are sending back with Sarah to cut weight)
- Getting a huge blister on my heel- it has been months!
- Kids persistently begging for candy and chocolates... they don't even offer up a hello, just "dame dulces"
- Ascending 2300m nearly all in one day
- After the trek, Trinity reading a book about Vilcabamba (the area we were in) that showed a picture of a man holding up a huge Boa that he had killed in this area... we hadn't even added being constricted to death to the list of worries about sleeping in the open on the jungle trail!
FYI Choquequirao Trekking Times
Cachora to Chiquisca 4 hrs
Chiquisca to Rio Apurimac 30 mins (quoted 2 hrs)
Rio Apurimac to Santa Rosa 2 hrs
Santa Rosa to Marampata 2 hrs
Marampata to choquequirao 1 hr
Choquequirao to Rio Blanco 3 hrs
Rio Blanco to Maizal 3 hrs
Maizal to San Juan Pass 4 hrs
Pass to Yanama 1.5 hrs
Yanama to Cholgana (?) 2 hrs
Cholgana (?) to Kelca Machay 3.5 hrs
Kelca Machay to Choquecatarpo Pass 2.5 hrs
Pass to dirt road (end Incan Trail) 1.25 hrs
Road to Huancacalle 3 hrs
*NOTE: We don't hike extremely fast but we don't break either
We reached Huancacalle in 5 days, 2 hrs as opposed to our predicted 7 days. The plan was to meet Sarah in the "plaza" but upon arriving we realized this strange little town did not have a plaza. It looked like government houses that sprang up over night but we couldn't figure out what it would be for. On top of it all, we called Sonnet back in the states who relayed an email from Sarah that she was still in Lima. We did find the only lodging in town charming and made friends with a few local guides. When we told them our plan was to continue to Espiritu Pampa they looked concerned and sincerely warned us against the trek. Apparently "narco-terroristas" (Shining Path) occupy a lot of that region and there have been a few recent incidents with them. I was curious to know what would happen to us if we did continue, but the only response we got was "better not to find out" and "next year may be better." Locals have warned us about a wide variety of things in the last 9 months on the trail but this was the first time we actually scratched a trek all together. We might be crazy but we aren't dumb. Change of plans- Trinity and I headed to Ayacucho to meet back up with Sarah.
|Huancacalle.. Shelley thinking "Hmm... is Sarah really going to make it to this town in the middle of nowhere??"|