By Emily Jump, Latin America Programs
You will find Peru’s Choquequirao, which translates from the Quechua language as the ‘Cradle of Gold’, perched high on the side of a mountain, overlooking the steep valley of the Apurimac River. It fits so impossibly well into the surrounding landscape that, in its very form, it feels like an ode to the mountains themselves.
Choquequirao is a place that escaped the notice of the Conquistadores over 500 years ago, and it is easy to lull yourself into the feeling that you are lost in time here as you look across the steep green mountainsides. One morning at the site, I spotted two Andean condors circling high above this expansive stone city, riding the updrafts in lazy rings. It is a profoundly beautiful place, rich with history and living culture. And yet, after days of travel and trekking, you are likely to find you have Choquequirao much to yourself.
Juan Carlos, our local partner and a skilled trekking guide, grew up nearby and has followed the paths to Choquequirao since childhood. In Marampata, a small settlement near the site of the ancient Incan stone city, you will be welcomed by his mother into the home of his youth. This is also the spot he has picked to build a new earthen home for his growing family. Knowledgeable and patient, Juan embodies a deep respect for his culture and the history of this place.
Even here, in this remote spot of the Andes, you can feel change is in the air, and Juan is preparing for it. As trekking to Choquequirao gains in popularity, Juan knows there is an opportunity to shape the future of tourism in the region for good. His commitment to his family and the community is present in each choice he makes, and he is constantly looking for ways to ensure the benefits of tourism reach local residents.
We are excited to announce that his new guesthouse, the Pachamama Hostel, is just about to open its doors and welcome its first guests. This locally-owned inn will be nestled in the mountain town of Cachora, the gateway to the trek to Choquequirao. Simple and comfortable, the new business will bring employment and increased opportunity to local residents. I have a feeling that this is just the first of many projects designed to share the positive impacts of travel with local residents as well as visiting travelers.
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