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From Choquequirao to Machu Picchu

Adventures of the lands of the Incas

An unusual adventure in the roads of the Sun. Days of pilgrimage, ascents and descents, talks on the edge of the void, walking exhausted looking for Choquequirao and Machu Picchu, two monumental constructions of the Incan time, located at the department of Cusco, in where the Andes shrink, get smaller and get warm. They turn into forest.

    Everything is different, the mountains, the snow-capped mountains, the dense fog at dawn, the twinkling noctivagant stars, the rivers and even the exhaustion is different in these adventure paths. Probably, the things that resemble the most are the astonishment, the expectation and the desire to continue, even when you cannot feel your legs anymore.

    Walking and talking, walking and discovering, walking and never getting to the destination. The Incas and their obsession with living on the hills, you complain with repressed anger, when the dialogues with eventual road partners die or when the words with aroma of coca leaves of experienced mule drivers and lean carriers vanish.
Related Articles Introduction

   * Adventures in
     the Inca Trail

   * Stories in the
     Inca Trail

   * Ruins in the
     Inca Trail

   * Choquequirao to
     Machu Picchu
   * The Main

   * Koricancha
   * The Paradise of
     the Incas

   * In Sacred

   * The Last Inca

   * Amongst
     Procession of

   * The Huayhuash

   * Intihuatana
   * Corpus Christi
   * Maras
   * Bohemian Night
   * From Tipon to

   * Sacsayhuamán
   * San Blas
    Days and nights go by in the route of the Incas. Stone over stone in rustic but particularly beautiful spots. Fabulous constructions in unthinkable and almost inaccessible places that must be reached in spite of the kilometric distances, in spite of the demolishing ascents, in spite of the mountain sickness that snoops around and hides thousands of meters above the sea level.

    The stone paths extinguish during a day with a sad and grieving sky. Bad luck, the sun sleeps and it's too much trouble for him to part with the blankets of clouds that keep him warm, darkening the last day of a fascinating but exhausting journey; dimming the final steps of a voyage besieged by anecdotes and memories.

    That's right, these are the final steps of an unprecedented adventure in the immensity of the Andes: The last bastion of the Incan resistance- with its beautiful cultivation terraces, its small blocks and its wide Main Square- to the lost city of colossal walls made of stones joined to perfection, which could never be discovered by the Spanish conquerors.

    From Choquequirao to Machu Picchu: More than 100 kilometers through brittle roads that approach and retreat from unbeatable rivers- capable of cleaving the entire world- 8 days walking, surveying the overwhelming magnificence of distant snow summits or the outlines of a chain of mountains gradually dyed in green.

A storm of memories
    Walk to Choquequirao (3,085 m.a.s.l.). 60-kilometer return trip. Four days of fatigue that start at Cachora, a microscopic town that hardly appears in the maps of the department of Apurímac. Constant walking. Ascents and descents. An unbeatable river capable of drilling the face of the planet so as to create a deep canyon. The sun is an executioner that annihilates the energies.

    Dark dawns. The camp falls down. The first conversations arise, the first steps are taken. Our legs hurt and they can't go on, they won't resist. A cramp, screams, cries for help. The water is scarce. You lay down on a hillock of soil. Who will help you in this loneliness of height and greenness? The back of a mule is used as an ambulance.

    Return to the navel of the Andean world: Cusco. We rest in the ancient Tawantinsuyo capital in order to recover the strength lost during the search of the "Golden Cradle" (derived from the Quechua word chuqui K'iraw), a monumental architectonic work constructed at the top of a mountain of the Vilcabamba valley, which was used as a shelter by the troops of Manco Inca, defeated by the Spanish armies in 1536 approximately.

    Vagabondage day through the half-caste streets of Cusco, with its constructions that are half Incan, half Spanish. Long walks through narrow paths and dark store-workshops that shelter saints with enlarged necks and colorful blankets typical of San Blas, a block of artists, a block of creators that perpetuate the sensitivity of Andean men.

    The relax ends up the second day. Once again the packs are on our shoulders. Departure towards Piskacucho, located at the kilometer 82 of the Cusco-Aguas Calientes railway, in where the Incan Road that leads to Machu Picchu starts. A new challenge of more than 40 kilometers, and there are no mules to "cure the exhaustion", but there is plentiful water and the sun does not warm up as much as it did before.

    We are already walking through the Capac Ñan -that is the name given by the children of the Sun to the net of paved paths marked on its territory- which is one of the most famous trekking routes of the world, that is why you can find people of all races and carriers bearing one thousand and one objects; then, you feel certain reminiscence due to the loneliness that, sometimes, followed you during the road to Choquequirao.

    Similar and different, you think once again. Because Choquequirao, the other Machu Picchu, as some people call it, is still an ignored archaeological complex, a remote redoubt of history that has been hardly investigated, whereas the fabulous lost city of the Incas has become, as of its discovery by the American Hiram Bingham in 1911, the most visited tourist attraction of Peru.

    Each step is a comparison. The road to Choquequirao is very rustic and combines abrupt hills and frightening cliffs; and the road to Machu Picchu presents long strips and staircases "carpeted" with stone slabs and, during the journey, it is possible to visit the significant archaeological remains that precede the colossal citadel.

    All comparison is false. We had better forget about them and continue with the route, anyway, we are almost there, anyway, we are already seeing the magnificent stone constructions. Machu Picchu or Choquequirao? Different roads, different stories. The adventure comes to an end, the contemplation starts. The Andes had shrunk, they had already become forest.

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