Choquequirao, The Other Machu Picchu

Manco, the rebel Inca, had to flee the city of Ollantaytambo in July of the same year after seeing the large advantage the Cusco Conquistadors possessed in the amount of warriors. He therefore started his retreat towards the mountains and soon crossed the Panticalla Pass, at almost 5,000 m.a.s.l., with the royalist capitan, Rodrigo de Orgónez, snapping at his heels. Nevertheless, the Inca had prepared his exit in advance. Taking a carefully planned alternate route, he crossed the Urubamba River by the Choquechaca Bridge and literally disappeared, swallowed up by the lush mountain vegetation.

Manco took possession of the fortress of Vitcos, located very close to Choquechaca, and was attacked by the Conquistadors as soon as they were able to regroup their army. Yet, once again luck saved the Inca. The greed of the invaders forced them to stop and sack the city of Vitccos of its riches, giving Manco the necessary time to escape into the mountains.

As the months passed, the Conquistadors would regret their mistake. Established in the remote Vilcabamba mountain range, Manco Inca organized a powerful army, the same one that terrorized the Crown, converting himself into a true legend throughout the length and breadth of the Four Suyos. It became a place that brought terror to the Spanish settled near the region and one that would become a source of inspiration for the thousands of indigenous faithful to their monarch throughout the Andes. This was the starting point for dozens of attacks against the Crown and its property and the origin of the second great rebellion that would make the newly created Viceroy of Peru tremble with fear.

The main Incan settlement on the far off Vilcabamba mountain range was, without a doubt, the citadel of Choquequirao. Constructed by the Inca Pachacútec after his victory over the Chancas with the purpose of eliminating their chance of regrouping in the Vilcabamba jungles, it is a group of plazas, houses, sacred worship centers, and warehouses, or colcas, surrounded by an impressive cultivated terrace network and placed on top of a mountain that overlooks the Apurímac River Valley. There is also an aqueduct of carved stone that directed to the place the life giving liquid from mountain top glaciers located various leagues above.

Despite its distant location, the community was strategically connected to the rest of the empire by way of an intricate network of roads that penetrated the mountains in a way similar to the rays of the sun, following the four cardinal directions or suyos. Some of these trails have resisted the passage of time and the fury of the climate to remain preserved up to our time as the only avenues to reach the spectacular Choquequirao site.