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Published: January 6th 2015
Jan and Kim at the Palpa Lines
Three guys, ten days, a road-trip, and finally an arduous hike, rewarded by an incredible ruin and some breathtaking scenery. This in short is the tale of 'los tres hombres', the men of the Kreuze-clan going on a little adventure. Just the guys mind you, the girls went on their own little trip to Finland. Mother and daughters, visiting family.
It was that visit which triggered our journey. With the women gone, my brother thought it would be nice for those left behind to go somewhere as well. And so he arranged a trip to Choquequirao. Choquequirao? What is Choquequirao, you might wonder. Well, think Machu Picchu, but bigger, less excavated and without the tourists. More on that later. For now, it seemed like the perfect way to introduce Kim to the world of hiking and backpacking, and for us men to do manly and rugged things. Together.
Choquequirao is located in the mountains near Abancay, a two day hike away from a small village called Cachora. But our journey started in Lima, packing the car with all the essentials that are needed for such an expedition, like underwear and hiking shoes. Abancay is twelve hours away by car,
Palpa Lines. Photo courtesy of Jan
but we were not going to do it in one long day. Instead we stopped first in Pisco, then in Nazca before arriving in Abancay where we were to meet our guide, Marco and his lovely assistant Jessica.
Pisco was just an overnight stay, but Nazca was more. Nazca is
more as well, more than just lines. Everybody goes to Nazca for the Nazca lines. We went to Nazca to see dried up mummies with very, very, very, long dreads. If Rapunzel were a mummy, and had dread-locks, this is what I would imagine her to look like. We also went to Nazca to see interesting circular irrigation shafts. And finally we went to Nazca to see a recently excavated ceremonial centre of the Nazca culture. We didn't go to Nazca to see the lines, all of us had seen them before. That is not to say we didn't see any lines at all. We saw the lesser known Palpa lines, which belong to an older culture than the Nazca's. They are less big, but bigger isn't always better! Unless, of course, you are American. Or a sand-dune. They have a two kilometer high one just outside of Nazca,
it is supposed to be the biggest in the world, and I suspect that is the truth of it.
Eventually we did make it to Abancay, and after some last minute shopping by Marco and Jessica, we went on to Cachora to start our trek. Choquequirao was 32 kilometers away. And it was on the other side of a river valley. I am telling you this, because it meant we had to first go down about 1.5 kilometers, only to have to go up 1.5 kilometers the next day! Like the real men we were, we had three mules, plus our trusty muleteer, Andy, to carry all our heavy equipment. And despite that, I still managed to get some awful blisters. Which is what you get for breaking in new shoes. And my brother still managed to hurt his knees. Which is what you get when you have to go down a steep mountain for 1.5 kilometers. And Kim still didn't manage to finish the entire hike on foot, failing on the way back at the very end. Andy allowed him to ride a horse into town for the final kilometer. Which is what you get when you are
Kim inside one of the aqueducts . Photo courtesy of Jan
a teenager and spend most of your holidays sitting on a couch playing games. Did I say, three men? I meant three losers!
It was all worth the pain and the suffering though. Not just because of the great views along the way. Not just because we had Choquequirao all to ourselves. No, it was worth it because I got to do this with my brother and my nephew. It was because I got to see how good Kim is with people. I watched him make friends with our muleteer Andy, I watched him charm Marco and Jessica, I watched him talk to everybody we met, and I saw how they responded to him. Sure, he might have the attention span of a goldfish, but so do all other teenagers. He will grow out of that phase. What is more important is that he is a good kid. That he treats everybody the same, no matter what their background or culture. These are the qualities which matter and which will remain, and serve him well in whatever the future holds for him.
Enough about Kim, I don't want to compliment him too much, that just wouldn't do for
an uncle. Besides, he did fail to finish the hike on foot! Unlike his father. My brother stumbled on despite the intense pain in his knees. He hobbled on right until the end. Luckily he didn't suffer permanent damage to his knees. It was my brother who arranged this whole trip. And he did a good job of it. He had an idea and it turned out to be a great idea. The idea of Choquequirao. The idea of combining a hike, with culture and history. The idea of the road-trip. The idea of doing it with the three of us. The idea of spending New Year at this magical place.
Choquequirao is, as I mentioned earlier, less known than Machu Picchu. It is of a similar age, and like its more famous counter-part it is located on top of a mountain ridge. It is twice as big as Machu Picchu, but only one third of it has been excavated. This means most of the site is still covered in vegetation. Machu Picchu is perfectly restored, it is manicured, it is imposing. And it is overrun with tourists. Choquequirao has none of that. It is imperfect, it is tranquil,
Red-head. Photo courtesy of Jan
it is still a ruin and not yet a tourist attraction. I loved it!
And so we ushered in the New Year by wondering around empty, fog clad ruins, surrounded by snowy peaks. And that is where I will leave you. Among the ancient Inca ruins of Choquequirao, during a New Year's day of 2015. Happy New Year!
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