INCA CHOQEK’IRAW: New Work at a Long Known Site
Closely paralleling Machu Picchu, the impressive ruins at Choqek’iraw boast many new discoveries, including steep terraces showing unique “llama designs”
Inca Choqek’iraw: New Work at a Long Known Site
A complete description of this newly expanded Machu Picchu look-alike. First reported two centuries before Hiram Bingham’s 1909 visit, as described in his famous book “Lost City of the Incas,” this site remained largely unexplored, hard to get to and seldom visited until recent years. Since the mid-1990s, the Peruvian government has massively cleared, enlarged and restored the city open to the public and greatly improved the still-arduous access for backpackers and guided tours.
Choqek’iraw (sometimes spelled Choquequirao) is now recognized as one of Peru’s finest and most interesting Inca ruins. Its elaborate “llama terraces” are unique in the Andes. This paper describes the site’s discovery, history and exploration in recent years, including the author’s significant 1996 contibutions to the latter and an Appendix documenting the llama terraces and other impressive new discoveries by others.
This work was also featured in “Inca Choqek’iraw,” in the “South American Explorer,” No. 51, Spring 1998.
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We set aside three weeks for the trip, 50 condor kilometers from Cachora to the roadhead at Huancacalle in the Zona de Vilcabamba. It promised to be slow going, involving about 8500 meters of elevation gain and another 8000 of loss. Once underway, the expedition reached Choqek’iraw in two days, right on schedule, and accomplishing the mapping there as planned. The newly discovered ruins turned out to be larger than expected and doubled the number of buildings so far uncovered at the site. We dubbed it the Ridge Group. Our fortunes changed the day we left Choqek’iraw and made camp above the stupendous gorge of the Rio Blanco. Unsettled weather moved in, eventually bringing rain and fog. Much worse, Saturnino became strangely ill, went into convulsions and after about 24 hours of suffering, died. No cause was ever determined.