Click here for my personal reflection of the hike.
Additional resources: Stingy Nomads and Travel Outlandish‘s report on the hike. We also found this Reddit post super helpful.
We hiked from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu (25 April 2018 to 1 May 2018), but arrived the night before (24 April 2018) at the starting point of Cachora. We had initially allocated to spend 9 days hiking but it turned out that we were going to complete it in 8 days.
(DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is only to be used as a guide and has been written with reference to our experience in late April 2018/early May 2018. The conditions may be different now so please ask locals for up-to-date information. Also, we are reasonably experienced trekkers and therefore chose to attempt this hike independently. This hike was by no means an easy walk in the park – in fact it was one of the hardest things we did all year. Please consider hiking this route with a local guide because there are times where you are all by yourself; and if that worries you, hike with a local guide.
If hiking independently, I highly recommend obtaining a Personal Locating Beacon or a GPS [we use a Garmin In-Reach] so that you can contact the outside world in case of an emergency. Another disclaimer is that I have not used the GPS for emergency reasons in Peru, so I cannot vouch for Peru’s search and rescue service.
Also, we have not been sponsored nor have any affiliations with any of the products or places we have linked. I thought I’d include it to share what we used to say what worked for us and what didn’t.)
Day 1: Cusco – Cachora
- Made our way to Terminal Terrestre in Cusco – their main bus station.
- Bought our bus tickets (no more than 20 soles each) to Ramal de Cachora. The ticket goes all the way to Abancay but we made sure multiple times that the bus was headed towards Ramal de Cachora and was to stop at Ramal de Cachora.
- Watched various instalments of Rapidos y Furiosos (The Fast and the Furious) as the bus driver zoomed along in the Peruvian highland countryside. If the movie stops, locals get mad and yell “PELICULA!” (ie. the film/movie).
- When we got dropped off at Ramal de Cachora we took a share taxi to our accommodation Hostel Casa del Salcantay. There are a couple of dudes waiting around at the bus stop to take you towards Cachora (I forgot how much the taxi cost, but it wasn’t much).
- Accommodation cost us $30USD per person per night, breakfast included. Dinner was an extra charge (I can’t remember how much) but it was the best lomo saltado I had in all of Peru.
- We told the couple running the hostel (which was more like a huge villa) that we intended to hike to Choquequirao and they organised a taxi to take us to the trailhead (Mirador Capuliyoc) at 6am the next day (30 soles total for transport).
Day 2: Cachora – Marampata
- I’m not sure how we did it, but we descended to the bottom of the canyon and then ascended up to Marampata in one day. The descent is approximately 1,500m to Playa Rosalina and the ascent up to Marampata is about 1,500m as well.
- Areas where you could stop:
- Chiquisca: a few small farmhouses, villager sells soft drink. We didn’t stop here because it was still really early in the day.
- Playa Rosalina: a larger campsite by the river where you can fill your bottle. We still had energy so we kept going upwards.
- Santa Rosa Baja: small house, small store, camping available
- Santa Rosa Alta: what we thought was probably Santa Rosa Alta looked closed to us. There was a small farm house with a view, locked door and looked abandoned. Our heart sank – is it now closed?
- We continued to Marampata because Santa Rosa Alta looked abandoned and we didn’t want to be trespassing an abandoned home. However as we walked uphill towards Marampata, we met a female villager who was walking downhill towards her home further down along the trail – which we suspect to be Santa Rosa Alta. When we spoke to her, she said her house was in the direction where we came from and that she offered snacks and camping space.
- Upon arrival in to Marampata, we saw a few farm houses. We approached a villager and asked to stay the night. With her consent we set up our tent for a small fee in her backyard with her chickens. She also ran a store and sold supplies like pasta, instant noodles, soft drink and eggs.
Day 3: Marampata – Choquequirao
- The walk was much easier than yesterday – it was relatively flat.
- After registering ourselves and paying for the entrance fee at the checkpoint, we continued on to the Choquequirao ruins campsite and set up camp there.
- This campsite didn’t have a store selling supplies or providing food, so make sure you have something to cook.
- As it was still pretty early in the day (we arrived sometime in the morning, between 10 and before noon) and the weather was good, we explored the Choquequirao ruins this day.
Day 4: Choquequirao – Pinchiunuyocc – Maizal
- Following the handmade signs that said “Maizal”, we ascended to the top of the canyon before again descending into the valley.
- Along the way we stopped at another set of Incan terraces called Pinchiunuyocc. We filled up our water bottles at the water source – it seems like a water source was piped and there was water flowing in some of the little pools. Because it was a hot day we also took this opportunity to wash our feet and body before further descending…
- We were back at the bottom of the canyon again – this time crossing Rio Blanco. There was a small bridge when we were there. We took this opportunity to have another dip in the cool water – so refreshing after walking in the hot sun.
- The descent was about 1,400m… but what goes down must come up!
- The ascent to Maizal was steep. In terms of figures it was 1,100m of ascent, but mark my words – they were steep switchbacks crossing through corn fields.
- Maizal itself was a set of farm houses occupied by one family. I’m not sure about other supplies but they definitely sold soft drink, which we savoured after the hard ascent.
Day 5: Maizal – Yanama
- Just when I thought the ascent was over, we continued to ascend to a pass, passing some old abandoned silver mines along the way (Mina Victoria).
- At some points we were walking on steep Incan paved steps – which is kind of cool when you think that some 600 years ago, the Incas would walk along this path and that they had paved this road. Steps were steep – I wonder whether I preferred walking up steep steps or a steep path?
- There was a sheltered space which we stopped at for lunch at the top of the pass. The shelter was great because it started raining intermittently.
- From that point on the path was on a slight decline towards Yanama, a small village (around about the size of Marampata).
- We set up camp behind another villager’s backyard for a small fee. He sold eggs, instant noodles and minor sundries. I also enjoyed chatting to him – I found out his name is Sergio and he is one of many porters hired by tour companies to accompany tourists/hikers on their hikes in the region. Sadly his wife passed away a few years ago. Although his work takes him away from his family for weeks on end, it gives him employment and a chance to support his family (he has two daughters).
Day 6: Yanama – Hornopampa
- Yanama had been recently connected by a dirt road, so some hikers we met in Maizal were planning to catch a taxi/bus to Santa Teresa, ending their hike. (we didn’t actually end up seeing them for much of Day 5 because they powered on ahead of us)
- Most of this day was walking along a dirt road which didn’t have much traffic. We hiked up to another pass (Yanama Pass).
- As noted by this Redditer, it wasn’t a very steep path but it felt really slow-going and it felt like it took forever because of the altitude.
- After we crossed the path it was downhill, and although we intended to end up in Totora, it turns out we stopped at a small one-family village called Hornopampa.
- The owner ran a small shop (sold eggs, soft drink, neccessities) and barely spoke Spanish (she spoke Quechua).
Day 7: Hornopampa – Yanama – Collpapampa – La Playa – Sahuayco
- From this point on we continued walking and reached Totora within the first hour of our hike this morning (and made the realisation that we actually didn’t make it to Totora the night before, lol)
- When we reached Collpapampa our hike was now part of the Salkantay trek and comparatively more developed and busy than the first six days of our hike. There were small cafes and snack bars catering to the Salkantay trekkers.
- The hike from here was essentially along a dirt road. Based on the update from Calvin Benson on Cam Honan’s TheHikingLife post about the Salkantay trek, we were aware that a landslide had made the hiking trail impassable. Although there were signs towards the hiking trail (that led us off the dirt road), we took the dirt road and saw from across the river that the landslide had appeared to make the hiking trail impassable.
- According to another comment by Danilovic in May 2018 on TheHikingLife, the hiking trail is now open. In his/her words, “in some places, they made only few footprints to walk across the landslides, so it is a bit dangerous… but is possible to cross“. Another commenter in May 2018 from TheHikingLife’s blog post said that the “Path to the left between Collcapampa and Playa is again through” and that he/she used that path.
- We walked past a tambo (Incan rest house) and had our lunch there (avocados on crackers, mmm). The owner of the rest house also gave us some free granadillas for the road – it’s a South/Central American fruit, member of the passionfruit family – but sweet as opposed to passionfruit which is generally sour!
- Since we walked along the dirt road, the village of La Playa was across the river from where we were and we would have to cross back across the river the next morning. So instead we stopped at Sahuayco, a little beyond La Playa and set up our tent at a rest house/accommodation. A guided group also rocked up and stayed in the dorms offered by the rest house we camped at. There was a little shop from which we purchased instant noodles, eggs, chips and soft drink.
Day 8: Sahuayco – Lucmabamba – Llactapata – Aguas Calientes
- Started early because we knew this was going to be a big day, but we were determined to get to the end.
- It was pretty special to hike through the coffee plantations in Lucmabamba. Stopped to taste some local coffee and despite trying to be ultralight and despite being aware that we had to carry everything we bought with us, Nathan convinced me to purchase some ground coffee. (He was kind enough to carry it for me :))
- The path continued uphill until the viewpoint overlooking Machu Picchu in the distance, Huayna Picchu and Montana Machu Picchu. The end is in sight!
- We continued walking downhill and wandered through the Llactapata Incan ruins, which was also pretty cool and also had views over Machu Picchu.
- There’s a lodge by the name of Llactapata Lodge which served hot meals – we saw a group having their delicious lunch while we ate our backpacker avocados and crackers. (PS. South American avocados are just yummy though, and so cheap compared to in Australia.)
- The path kept heading downhill until we finally reached the bottom. From here on it was a dirt path up until the Hidroelectrica train station.
cheapskatesbackpackers we walked along the train tracks for what seemed like three to four hours… but maybe we were just tired from all the hiking for the day! Let’s just say we were incredibly chuffed when we reached the sign that said Machu Picchu town.
And just like that we were back in civilization. Aguas Calientes is a weird town that exists purely because of tourism. The town itself wasn’t very pretty and felt too touristy – think souvenir shops and restaurants selling pretty much the same stuff, but the tourism industry has provided hundreds of jobs for the people in this area. The cool fact is that I don’t think cars are allowed in and out of the town, so everyone in the town is there on foot (other than the shuttle buses to the Machu Picchu complex).
We loved this restaurant (according to Maps.me, on the corner of Calle Wakanki and Calle Winay Wayna) which served fried yucca/cassava with guacamole and cheese as part of their set meals. We loved it so much we had it multiple times in AC.
A couple of extra tips:
- The maps we purchased from Cusco were barely useful, but if a paper map makes you feel more secure, then go for it. The South American Explorers Club in Cusco was closed in April 2018 – if someone has up-to-date information otherwise please let me know. Nathan and I went on a wild goose chase looking for what no longer existed. You can check out their Facebook page which should have up-to-date information or to contact them directly.
- Instead we used the relevant offline maps for Maps.Me (available on the Apple Store and Google Play store), a crowdsourced offline map app which was really useful while we were in South America and it was incredibly helpful for this hike.
- Given the availability of food, if you’re not particularly selective on eating you could go with just carrying one or two days worth of main meals. We started the hike with five days of food which meant more weight than we needed to. The only campsite which didn’t offer food was at the Choquequirao ruins. I think some villagers would cook you a meal for a fee, but consider what would happen if too many hikers turn up expecting to be fed by villagers. That being said they were often pretty happy to sell whatever stuff they had – mainly eggs, instant noodles, chocolate bars, soft drink, dry pasta, dry crackers. The part from Yanama onwards was less remote so it would be easier for them to restock their supplies, as opposed to say the village in Marampata where supplies would have to be hauled in by mule down and up the canyon.
- I don’t recall a huge issue with obtaining water – but the dry stretches I remember are the uphill stretches between Playa Rosalina and Marampata and from Rio Blanco up to Maizal. As per backpacking trips, physically filter your water or have a chemical filter; whatever works for you.
- When we hiked in late April 2018 it wasn’t that cold and our Feathered Friends Spoonbill double sleeping bag was way too hot for the conditions. The weather was more humid than what we had previously experienced so we were very sweaty most of the time. Also, the mosquitos and other flying insects posed to be an annoyance at the lower altitudes around Playa Rosalina and Rio Blanco.
If you’re planning to hike from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu, I would highly recommend it. When we were at the ruins we probably were there with at most 10 other hikers. There has been talk about constructing a cable car and making it more accessible by road, which would be good for tourism and the local economy, but you lose the special feeling of going to a more remote place. It certainly wasn’t easy but it was definitely one of the highlights of our year.
If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail us, Instagram DM us or comment on this post 🙂 I hope it has been as helpful as the other resources have been to us!
Thank you so much for sharing your travel adventures! Enjoy reading your descriptions and stories. 🙂
Excellent post! It was lovely reading about your experiences and I love your images 🙂