I went on this trek with a group of eight people. Some of them were experienced hikers and others (like myself) had no experience. I do workout at least 5 days a week; however, I read many articles online that this trek is tough even for the skilled. In the end, I had a wonderful experience on the trip. That being said, this trek is extremely difficult. It is not for people that do not have a degree of physical fitness or those that do not workout on a regular basis. We had one member of the group that had to stay back and did not make it to the ruins due to the difficulty of the hike. To prepare, I starting modifying my workout about one month prior to leaving. I walked on the treadmill at a 15 degree incline with a speed between 3.0 to 3.5 for 30 minutes. After this, I would usually jog on the treadmill a short distance for another 15 minutes. Also, I went on a couple of hikes in San Diego that had a more significant elevation gain.
I have to include a taste of some of the amazing views we encountered on the trek. The scenery was something that I truly had never experienced. Our guide Ronnie from Tika Trekking lead us on the initial two hour descent into the valley with our second guide Hector making up the back of the pack. Ultimately, our second guide stayed behind with the two that decided not to move forward on the trek. The descent was not strenuous; however, it is hard on the knees. The uphill portion after lunch on the first day was very difficult. We stopped for frequent breaks and went at our own pace. Mules carried our duffel bags between the campsites. Each person was allowed one duffel. Prior to arriving in Peru, I paid an extra eighty dollars to have an additional mule. They wanted our overnight bags to be under fifteen pounds, and I did not feel this was something that I could accomplish. The extra mule allowed my friend and myself an additional duffel bag to share, which was very useful. We were able to leave our additional luggage behind at the hotel in Cusco and pick it up on the last days of the trip. This helped tremendously.
Food: Two cooks were with us on the trek. I was a little concerned because I heard stories of food spoiling while on the trek and people getting sick. Our cooks proved to be fantastic and the food was incredible. Lunch and dinner were always multiple courses. Breakfast was served family style. No dish was repeated at any point during the trek. They did have boiled water available at meals. In addition, almost all of the campsites had a small store selling water and gatorade. All of the beverages served were warm. When I arrived back home, I had a new appreciation for a cold beverage. Something different in Peru is the Inka Cola. It looks similar to Mountain Dew in color. I definitely recommend trying it. It is a product of Coca Cola. Despite its bright yellow color, it really tastes like bubble gum. You can also get it “sin azucar” which is an option I always like.
Choquequirao: We spent the majority of the day exploring the ruins. I included some photos below of the ruins. It is the sister to Machu Picchu and about three times its size. Estimates are that only 30-40% of the ruins have been excavated. It is crazy to imagine what has yet to be uncovered. We also went to the llama terraces. This is a little trek from the main ruins site. The trek to the llama terraces was the same difficulty level as the remainder of the hike. Our guide did a great job of explaining the history along the trek. Something really fantastic about Choquequirao is it was empty. You can see that from the photos below. Machu Picchu is obviously packed full of people and really breathtaking, but when you have ruins nearly to yourself, it is so special.
Day One: Full day of hiking (primarily downhill with uphill in afternoon) with stop at first campsite Santa Rosa. There is a store available for water/gatorade/soda.
Day Two: Half day of hiking (tough uphill then flattens out), Choquequirao ruins for afternoon, hike to llama terraces, lunch and evening spent at Choquequirao campsite. There is no store at the Choquequirao campsite for water/gatorade/soda. Plan accordingly!
Day Three: Full day of hiking (primarily downhill) leaving Choquequirao to go past Santa Rosa down to depth of valley for late lunch at the campsite just across the Apurimac River. At the river, there is camping, restrooms, and a store. We actually progressed further than our planned itinerary to camp at what I believe was Chiccisqa.
Day Four: We left for the tough uphill climb in the morning. This left us at the trail head around lunch time. A short walk from the trail head is a campsite. We spent our final evening here. There is also a store here that had beer, wine, cola, and other refreshments. Arriving mid day allowed us to take in beautiful views at the trail head. After so much hard work, it was amazing to relax here and enjoy the afternoon thinking about what we accomplished over the last several days. Check out the breathtaking views and the flying condor I was able to capture!