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What You’ll Face Day 1 on the Choquequirao Trek


We love challenging adventures especially on our travels.  It is a great way to have a memorable experience while seeing a country.  Since our epic adventure of hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, we have had some great adventures but haven’t pushed ourselves to that level.  Our trip to Peru presented the opportunity to do a very challenging hike and see parts of Peru few see.  We signed up for the trek and thought how hard could it be?  Well I will tell you what you’ll face day 1 on the Choquequirao Trek, and it will surprise you as much as it did me!

 

Prepping for the Trek

The night before our trek our guide from Llama Path came to our hotel to explain what we should expect and tips on what to bring.  He gave us a description of the 9 day hike (no that is not a typo we signed up for 9 days!) We would meet in the lobby at 4 am, this is sadly not a typo either!  I am not a morning person so I knew this would be rough for me.  Getting to sleep early would be a great idea if I didn’t have to pack my backpack, get my luggage ready for storage at the hotel and of course check in on social media!

Frank and I were reeling from the news that it was just the two of this on the trek with two cooks, two horsemen and a guide.  The nice part is that we would be on a trek tailored for us, that would allow plenty of time for us to take photos. On the other hand why was no one else doing the 9 day Choquequirao Trek?  The 4 day trek was much more popular.  I hoped we hadn’t taken on more than we should have!

 

Long Journey to Start the Trek

Waking up before sunrise was tough but we gathered our backpacks, our luggage, and 2 addition sacks each of gear that the horsemen would carry, and somehow stumbled to the lobby.  We grabbed our bagged breakfast and off we went into the darkness.  For hours we drove up mountains to descend them the next turn.  I struggled not to be car sick, yet each turn my stomach churned.  Being overtired was not helping.  I shut my eyes and slept as often as possible.  Hairpin turns tossed me around and I awoke often.  When it started to rain we pulled over to cover the bags in the back of the truck.  I jumped out immediately and was sick.  This was not how I pictured starting day one of our trek.

 

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

Our first stop was for breakfast and I relished getting out of the car.  As soon as I put my foot down I felt a searing pain in my right foot.  I pulled off my shoe looking for a sharp object yet nothing was in my shoe.  Flipping my shoe over I found a large sharp thorn embedded through the sole, pulling it out revealed that it punctured my foot too.  Maybe a sharp thorn in the foot is good luck right?

After breakfast we were back driving again.  The challenging conditions of the road were made even more adventurous going over small rickety wood bridges, past horses in the road and beyond many snow capped mountains.  We knew it was the start of our trek seeing the horses and mules standing in a line being loaded up.  Although the horses and mules started the trek much later than us, it didn’t take them long to for them to pass us by and meet us at our lunch stop hours later.

 

Deceptive Start

The trail was wide and smooth to start.  It was a pleasure to stroll down the gentle decline. We were all smiles and snapped photos constantly. We laughed, joked and admired the turquoise river running through the valley below.  After a few switchbacks the trail became more narrow, rocky, and steep.  Sometimes the trail was very steep, serpentine moves across the trail helped to slow us down and saved our toes a bit.  Still it was somewhat easy going as it was all downhill.  We chatted about the trees and plants while keeping a great pace.  Downhill is Frank’s strong point hiking, I had to jog at times to keep up with him.  Soon we were at our lunch stop and quickly greeted by a very friendly orange kitten.  It was the perfect day for me!

 

When lunch was served our furry friend started begging and was joined by another cat looking for a handout.  We couldn’t resist their sweet faces and shared some of our delicious lunch.  Peru is known as a foodie destination and our chefs outdid themselves!  I just had to try everything and even had seconds.  I don’t normally eat too much while hiking but we were in Peru, I couldn’t resist!

With full stomachs we had a bit of free time to digest and rest before hitting the trail. We laid back in the grass and couldn’t believe how great it was to have this relaxing time in Peru.  Back on trail refueled, we zoomed down the trail to the base of the canyon.  Our campsite was visible up the next mountain about the same distance as we had just come down.  It didn’t look too far away.

 

Trek Starts to Get Tough

A long suspension bridge (not Frank’s favorite) took us across the raging river.  Our spirits were high, we felt great and were making great time.  Soon the trail became steep and switchback after switchback started.  The trail description in books is described as relentless, we agreed completely!  Frank was leading the way with a quick pace.  I was starting to get very warm and I knew I ate too much lunch.  Normally on trail I eat small amounts often, I definitely over indulged.  The early wake up and lack of sleep hit me hard.  I was slowing down and not feeling well, I hit a wall.

I stopped to rest on a rock and we slowed the pace down a bit.  Still I felt horrible and had to keep stopping at any spot I could find to sit.  I hoped for a large rock around each turn so that I could stop and rest.  The afternoon sun was strong and I was overheating.  Normally Frank is the one who suffers in the heat but he felt fine. He put his cooling towel on my forehead, it felt amazing but made me feel light headed.  Our camp for the night was not going to come to me so we pushed on.

 

Focused On the Goal

I worried that on day one I was struggling, how could I possibly hike for 8 more days?  Should we turn around now? Maybe we should shorten the hike to the 4 day trek?  Each thought added to my exhaustion, I was carrying far too much worry up the mountain.  I reassured myself that I could do this, I have done harder hikes (so I thought), I have 4 kids- this couldn’t be harder than that! Worry kept creeping in when I had to stop every 10 minutes.  I shared my concerns with Frank and he reassured me that I could do this.  Off we went at an even slower pace for my sake.

Slowing down helped a bit although I figured we would arrive at camp in the dark at this rate.  My motivation to keep going was to lay down in the tent and take off my backpack that was entirely too heavy for a hike this challenging.  I scolded myself for not training more.  Frank had just completed a 6 week training class at his gym and lost 26 pounds!  If I had trained as hard maybe I wouldn’t be struggling now.

 

No Turning Back

There was no giving up or going back now though.  Maybe if I had asked the guide to turn back he might have said yes, but I’m not one that likes to give up! At each view we took lots of photos so I could catch my breath.  Finally we saw a sign for the camp.  As with most camps the trail there is not easy.  Thick mud and some short steep sections made the last bit of trail to camp bittersweet.

I spied a cat when we arrived at camp but I was so utterly exhausted that I headed straight to the tent.  I climbed in and promptly fell asleep.  I woke later chilly from my clothes wet with sweat.  It was getting dark now, I had no idea how long I had slept but I wanted to go back to sleep.  I managed to make it to the dinner tent but could barely eat. I had no appetite.  Concern crept into my head.  How could I do this again tomorrow?

 

Night of Uncertainty

It seemed unlikely to me that I would be able to hike 8 more days.  I felt horrible that Frank wouldn’t be able to complete the hike because of me!  All I could do was go to sleep and hope I would wake up recharged and able to hike the next day.  Day 2 to be published soon!

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