30 September 2007

They spell Choquequirao with an 'o'

Though I've seen it with a 'w', too. I don't like the 'w' because it looks too exotic, but ending a word with an 'o' is nice. It's rounded, closed off, and brings closure to the whole affair. I am starting to like these Andean names. Choquequirao, Urubama, Tambomachay.. they're very catchy! I think I want to learn Quechua.

In case you haven't noticed, I survived the four day trek to and from Choquequirau/w/o. Ironically, I ended up going with that 65 year old German woman, anyway. We both used other agencies, except I paid $70 less, and she paid $50 more. On day one, I woke at the customary 5 am to find that I was going with a completely different guide who didn't speak English. I seem to be catching on to Spanish, though, so it wasn't too bad. We took a 3 hour taxi ride to a small mud brick town and hoofed it from there into the mountains, where we camped above a canyon. The next day, I decided to test myself. I was told it usually takes people about 5 hours or more to hike to the top of the mountain on which the ruins rest. This is probably, for most people, one of the most grueling ordeals imaginable. A long zigzag to the top of a mountain along a steep trail in the hot sun.

10 km
1500 m - 3100 m
90 switchbacks
me: 2 hours, 40 minutes

I arrived at the ruins after 3 hours, 40 minutes. The guard there said he usually takes 4 hours. Most people, 6-7 hours. So I felt quite good about that, and not dying, and I won't be so perversely testing myself again. About the ruins, well, they are just spectacular. The name means "cradle of gold" and they are indeed nestled in a kind of cradle between two peaks, one of which was flattened off by the Inca (or the aliens!) for "ceremonial purposes" (or landings!). They also overlook the intersection of three valleys, all formed of enormous mountains, covered in cloud forest. I discovered that I find mountains beautiful but slightly terrifying, too. The ruins cover an area much larger than Machu Picchu, though only about 30% have been excavated. The French sent money, but it was earmarked for corruption, instead. The best part of the experience: there was nobody there! I spent the entire day picking over everything, and then part of the next day (after camping on an Inca terrace!), and then we came back. I was so enchanted with the experience (which I rank among my top 3), that I wrote a poem about it:



Jhenn said...

...I hope you have a giant photo log when you get back!

The Steve said...

Yeah, uh, I don't really take photos anymore. But you can just Google the places I visit and see better shots than I could take. If you like, I'll Photoshop myself into them. When did "to Photoshop" become a verb, anyway?