Peru is a hiker’s dream as the country is a blend of various geographies and biomes. Deserts, jungle, windswept coast, and more clash together. As a hiker, you can expect to experience deep ravines and fast running rivers first hand, but the best reason for hiking in Peru is the Andes.
Pushing Past The Foothills Of The Andes
These are the mountains that makeup fantasy worlds, except they exist in South America just waiting for someone to explore. Although the mountains in Peru are the foothills of the Andes many of their peaks stretch up to 20,000 feet tall over a comparably small area.
To visit this hidden refuge in Peru, you must hike about 40-miles in total, looping back to the start location. Initially, the hike takes explorers through a high-altitude desert and then into a tropical forest in the mountains. At about 10,000 feet you officially enter the foothills of the Andes. The hike keeps away from the more significant peaks, and this hike is one of the best ways to experience standing in the shadow of a mountain.
Many of those who have made their hikes up to Machu Pichu can attest that spending days among the greenery that makes up the many folds of these mountains is life changing. Most of the hike will take place nestled into the ridges of the Andes, navigating with the ravines and the high mountain ridges.
Machu Picchu Has A Little Sister
The purpose of this hike is to find the final refuge of the Incas, a Citadel in Choquequirao. The Incas, a not-forgotten but still ancient culture which left many clues of their way of life. The Incan empire dates from about 1438 to 1532 AD and the construction as well as agricultural plotting shows the advancement of the Incas who began settling this expansive land.
Although many people make their way to Peru every year to climb the magnificent mountains and step foot into the mysterious Machu Picchu, there are more unanswered questions about Choquequirao.
The Inca Emporer Pachacuti commissioned Choquequirao for unknown purposes although the Citadel makes it clear there is some divine presence. It is clear to historians that this same Emporer called for the establishment of Machu Picchu for religious purposes, but the fact that Choquequirao is so far from the rest of the Inca settlements baffles researchers.
Choquequirao translates to “Cradle of Gold” and sits near a small village on the very edge of Cusco that is nearly impossible to access. Hiking to Choquequirao is a daunting task that has no modern conveniences or guidance.
How Choquequirao Was Found And Then Found Again
The trails are as challenging to walk today as they were nearly 500 years ago when the Incas sought their last place of refuge from invading Spaniards. To get to Choquequirao hikers must use the trails set out by the Incas. After the Incas used these paths in the mid-1500s, they would sit untouched and growing wild until 1909.
Hiram Bingham III found Choquequirao, unfortunately for the many explorers of the world, when he discovered Machu Picchu, he forgot all about this city on the edge of the world. It’s no doubt that the stunning sight that sat between curtailed mountaintops grabbed his attention. Choquequirao would sit forgotten again until 1968.
For explorers the lore of the Incas fall in less than 100 years and the wild nature that has overtaken it make Choquequirao a must-see location.
Machu Picchu has gone through an assault from the overload of visitors, and now literally sinks into the hills of the Andes. The nature that bloomed and thrived there is dying from pollution and human presence. All the while that Machu Picchu was becoming known as the explorer’s paradise, Choquequirao was making its way onto the Official Register of Archaeological Monuments.
Hiking Up To Choquequirao
As with many of these mountain trails that run through untamed regions of nature, it’s always best to hire a local guide. Be sure that before hiking up to Choquequirao you know you’re in peak physical condition as the altitudes are high and the hike is demanding.
Any local guide should have a wealth of knowledge about the flora, fauna, local culture, and Inca history or lore. Although all anyone can do is speculate about the purpose of Choquequirao’s existence, many guides can offer insight into the advancements and agricultural methods that the Incas brought to our world.
Choquequirao is known as the edge of the world, although when you finally hit the top of your climb, you’ll realize it doesn’t have all the finality the weight of its nickname carries. Standing at the entrance to Choquequirao you have an unremarkable overlook of the Andes.
Take In Everything Before You Go
The trail takes a turn that requires patience and caution. The way down is through a stairway path that is nearly a vertical descent and goes on for about 50 stories.
At the bottom you enter the Rio Apurimac, pass the Playa Rosalina and enter a small farming community. You continue through many farming towns and a massive amount of untouched wilderness.
The citadel is small, and it’s no doubt that this refuge wasn’t planned to act as the last place of hiding for the Inca people. Before leaving, be sure to observe the small details in craftsmanship as well as the stunning views. Use your imagination to recreate pilgrims making this great journey, as well as the last wave of Incas retreating here for safety.
Don’t forget to see the Llamas del Sol or to walk among the many other terraces. One of the perks of making this hike is the ability to visit Choquequirao both in the day and night. Many explorers love to camp in the citadel and gaze at the open sky above them.
Because Choquequirao has gone through waves of restoration, you can see where rebar is present for doorway reconstruction. These days Choquequirao is still a location that only explorers have any interest in and has not seen half the attention that Machu Picchu could have in a year. Who knows how long Choquequirao will stay empty.
When stories of lost children make it into the media, they often end in tragedy. Not so with Cody Sheehy. When the now 39-year-old went missing in the spring of 1986, his family and friends feared the worst–but he emerged from the Oregon woods 18 hours later, cold and wet, but unscathed.
A Typical Day Out
6-year-old Cody started out that fateful day doing what he often did–playing with his older sister in a meadow near their house. The family lived in remote Wallowa County, Oregon–a community that even today only has about 7,000 residents. It is the northeasternmost county in the state, surrounded by mountains and forests.
Still, Cody and his family were used to the rugged terrain. The Sheehys were cattle ranchers and spent a lot of time outdoors. Unlike many children now, constantly glued to a screen, Cody spent a lot of time exploring, hiking the nearby hills and climbing trees.
On that particular afternoon, he was playing a game of ‘explorers’ with his 9-year-old sister. The idea was that they’d each walk off in a different direction, looking for interesting things. Later, they were supposed to meet at a designated spot and share their treasures.
Only, Cody didn’t come back.
Somewhere along the way, he lost track of where he was. Heading back to the designated meeting place, he crisscrossed the same meadow, again and again, never ending up where he was supposed to be. Eventually, he decided to try to head home on his own.
Within a few hours, dozens of people began looking for him, but by that point, he was long gone.
After wandering away from the meadow, Cody walked until he found a road. Figuring that it had to lead somewhere, he picked a direction and went. Over 18 hours, he walked an estimated 14 to 20 miles, stopping only sporadically to rest.
By the time it was getting dark, Cody came to a fork in the road and decided to go right. Soon, he regretted his decision, wishing he had instead turned left–but at that point, he was too tired to turn around. Instead, he chose to cross a creek to get to the left-hand road, and he got soaked in the process.
Clad in only a light coat and discount sneakers, the boy must have been freezing. Yet he plowed on, driven by determination. Rather than being terrified by the situation at hand (including a pursuit by coyotes), Cody recalls being afraid that his parents were going to punish him for getting lost.
At about 5:40 the next morning, Cody came to a plateau and saw houses below. At about 7:30, he arrived on the doorstep of local resident Beverly Hansen.
What To Do If You Get Lost
In the event that you ever end up lost in the wilderness, do not do what Cody did. Despite the fact that he turned out ok, he actually did everything experts say you should avoid.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, unless you are very, very confident of the route out, you should stay put. Rescuers are far more likely to find you quickly if you’re close to where you started. In addition, make sure to always pack adequate supplies (like food, water, and flashlight, and matches) in case of an emergency.
When you think of tourist destinations in the United States, you wouldn’t think of Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s not on your bucket list. But you would be surprised just how many tourists travel to South Dakota’s second largest city every year to visit the gateway to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.
However, there’s more to explore in Rapid City than just Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills. Instead, you can roam the prairie with buffalo, go on archaeological digs, hike, camp, and kayak. Luckily, we have your complete list of fun destinations in and around Rapid City for the whole family. Schedule your next vacation to South Dakota!
Badlands National Park
Located about an hour southeast of Rapid City, Badlands National Park is a popular destination for those who love hiking and exploring the great outdoors. Its landscapes span several rock formations, steep canyons, and towering spires. You can also meet South Dakota’s native bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs as you explore the grasslands.
You can take the Badlands Loop Road to look at the scenic lands. Luckily, there are several trails for hiking, where you may stumble upon uncovered fossils in the park.
Caving At Wind Cave National Park
Caving is one of the most popular family trips, and South Dakota offers two of the longest caves in the world. The Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs and Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer in the historic Black Hills allow explorers to travel up to 180 miles underneath the ground.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty near unique rock formations, beautiful crystals, and more. A guided tour is available, and Wild Caving Tours gives viewers a realistic caving experience.
Canoeing And Kayaking
One of the best ways to experience South Dakota’s stunning picturesque views is to canoe and kayak on the waters of the Black Hills and Badlands. Thankfully, canoeing is allowed on the majority of lakes and rivers in South Dakota, including Angostura Recreation Area, Bear Butte Lake, Custer State Park, and more.
The best times of the year to canoe and kayak are in the spring and early summer seasons when the water flows at its best. Go canoeing and you’re ready for an amazing adventure.
Custer State Park
Speaking of Custer State Park, it’s another location you must visit. Located in Custer, South Dakota (40 minutes south of Rapid City), the 110-square-mile park is the home of buffalo in grasslands and granite cliffs.
No trip to South Dakota would be complete without seeing the breathtaking country, but also the animals that call the land “home.”
Snowmobiling Trails For Everyone
If you’re visiting South Dakota during the winter months, you probably wonder if there’s anything to do in the snow. Contrary to what you think, there’s plenty to do to calm cabin fever, including snowmobiling.
With more than 1,500 miles of snowmobile trails, South Dakota offers the best trails for snowmobiling. If you feel the need for speed, while playing in the snow, South Dakota is the next destination for you.