Peru - Inca Trail

August 2006

 

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Kilometer 82 is the end of the road; from here west Peru Rail or hiking are your options for traveling to Machu Picchu.

The start of trek of the Inca Trail at kilometer 82 with the Llamapath group of Faraz, Paul, Dennis, Bonnie, Leslie & Philip.

The Rio Urubamba begins to run more rapidly as it enters the mountains from the Sacred Valley running west towards the Amazon.

Mount Veronica (Quechua - Huaccay Huillcay "the mountain that cries" in the Quechua language) looms in the distance at the start of the Inca Trail.

Llactapata, at the confluence of the Rio Urubamba and Rio Cusichaca, was built circa 1450; an important agricultural site for growing maize (corn).

Huillca Raccay, inhabited since approx. 500 BC, is a fort that controlled access to the Cusichaca and Urubamba rivers and protected Llactapata below.

Llamapath's porters and guide Americo (here with Philip at a lunch stop) provided extraordinary service to our group.

Our ten porters and cook (Ronal on the left) were pleasant and efficient and took care of us like royalty.

These amazing porters carry 30 kilos up and down exceptionally steep terrain. Here, a few rest along the Inca Trail.

Giant hummingbirds are the largest in size of hummingbirds in the world. Aside the Inca Trail they vigorously defended these tili-tili bushes.

The climb to Abra de Huarmihuenusca (Dead Woman Pass) is steep and Inca-laid stone steps abound.

Porters work hard for little pay on the Inca Trail but reforms have recently been enacted ensuring a minimum wage, insurance and maximum loads.

Americo, our guide, makes the final approach to Dead Woman Pass (4,215 m) on the Inca Trail. Note the clarity of the air at this altitude.

Reaching Dead Woman Pass (Abra de Warmiwa˝uska, nearly 14,000 feet) is difficult but the effect is exhilarating (and chilly).

Looking SE from Warmiwa˝usca, the high Andean mountains near Llulluchupampa are an awesome sight.

Pausing for photos at Dead Woman Pass we quickly got chilled by the brisk wind and damp, rapidly moving clouds.

The downhill side of the pass seems easy at first but, descending 2,640 ft. in 1 1/4 miles, quickly reminds you of other muscles in your legs.

This tiny orchid is locally called a "Dancing Lady" (Lady's Slipper?).

After descending from Dead Women's Pass we found our tents already set up by our porters and ready for our arrival.

Runcu Raccay is believed to be a tambo, or travelers rest lodge, for chasquis (relay runners) who traveled the Inca roads.

Sayac Marka sits on a rocky prominence with a commanding view of the valley below. Terraces are connected by steps designed to aleviate erosion.

Trapezoidal cubbies are very common at Sayac Marka, a site whose purpose has not been determined definitively.

Holes carved in corners of stones were said to help hold doors and roofs onto Inca buildings (Sayac Marka).

Bright cloud forest flora seem to sparkle in the mist.

The Flor de ParaÝso orchid was the most spectacular (almost gaudy) flower we saw in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.

This spectacular hummingbird photo was taken by Inca Trail companion Denis Test as we entered the cloudforest near Sayac Marka.

Passion fruit grows wild in the Machu Picchu sanctuary.

Incas built their mountains skillfully, fully exploiting natural features such as this tunnel.

Phuyu Pata Marka means "Cloud Level Town". Sitting at 3600 m, it was certainly in the clouds the day we visited.

Phuyu Pata Marka, built into the hillside is nearly invisible from the valley below.

Sure footed porters often raced each other down these steep, original Inca steps, bounding to their next camp.

Orchids abound in the Machu Picchu sanctuary; this unidentified variety (Stelis?) was the tiniest orchid we saw.

Intipata is believed to be an important Inca agricultural experiment station 1,000 m above the valley. The Incas forced plants to adapt

We have not been able to determine the name of this gaudy cloud forest flower (Boca de sapo?) that flourished among the bamboo alongside the trail.

Quechua was not written so the spelling of this and others sites varies (this one means "forever young" and has been written Huinay Huayna).

Trying to reach the sun gate for sunrise we left camp at 0500 and walked into the dark cloud forest.

Wild begonias brightened the darkness on morning four as we hiked towards the Machu Picchu Sun Gate.

This unnamed Inca site was a grave of a woman and her companion dog, who according to legend would accompany her to the afterworld.

The Sun Gate to Machu Picchu, Intipunku, was unfortunately engulfed in clouds that obscured our first views of the ruins below.

After four days and forty two kilometers of walking on roads traveled for centuries by Incas, we arrived at Machu Picchu, thrilled to be there.

When we arrived Machu Picchu was still encased in rapidly moving clouds that obscured sunrise but made for an eerie first view of this amazing site.

Our trekking team (sans porters) arrived at Machu Picchu on day 4 of our trek. Bonnie, Dennis, Paul, Faraz, Americo (our guide), Leslie & Philip