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The Inca Trail  

Disembarking the Cuzco to Aguas Calientes train at Km 104, the Inca Trail is an easy

half day trek past Winay Wayna, through the cloud forest, to Intipunku, the Sun Gate,

where you get your first view of the Lost City: Machu Picchu

 

 

Quipus

Though the Incas did not have a written language, they tallied crops, herds, births and weapons with the Quipus - a sunburst of knotted strings which represented mathematical figures.  They understood the concept of zero, as well as decimals.  Only those trained from childhood could interpret these knots.

With no written language, stories and history were learned by heart and passed from one generation to another.  People known as quipucamayocs - oral history recorders - or "rememberers" learned what to say and sing about the dead rulers and history of the empire. 

Nearly all of this oral history and knowledge of the Quipus and the "rememberers" was lost and destroyed after the invasion of the Spanish Conquistadors.

 

Of all the popular treks around the world, the 3 to 5 day Inca Trail is the most known of, talked about and longed for.  To hike the entire trail, the adventure begins by train from Cuzco heading towards Aguas Calientas, where you disembark at Km 88.  If you are pressed for time or want to avoid several days of arduous trekking, the train also stops at Chalcabama, Km 104, 8 km (about 5 miles) from the Lost City.

The Inca civilization was comprised of citadels perched atop the mighty Andes mountains.  The ancient Inca trail, linking these together, was used by travelers, porters and messengers.  The trail, which would have connected Machu Picchu and other lower Urubamba Valley to Cuzco via Ollantaytambo and the main portion of the valley, is just another link in the vast Inca road system.  Estimated to have covered over 2,500 miles at one time, the system was based on two main north-south roads, one coastal and one in the mountains, joined by numerous east-west trunks.  Much of the trail now, long unused, has been taken over by the thick dense jungle.

From the footbridge at Km 104, the often narrow footpath is a steady up-and-down, and it is easy to see how Machu Picchu and indeed many other cities in ruins have laid unclaimed, buried beneath the thick tropical jungle growth.  It is said that there are hundreds more ruins, just waiting to be discovered.  The view of the Urabamaba Valley is breathtaking, as one foot follows another, the way a thousand others have journeyed hundreds of years ago.  As the trail wraps through the jungle and around the mountainside, an unbelievable picture is seen in the distance.

Tenaciously clinging to the side of a steep ravine is the most stunning Winay Wayna (sometimes spelled Huinay Huayna).  The ability of the Incas to construct something so complex in an area so vertical is almost beyond comprehension, yet a series of 19 ritual baths, long stretches of terracing and intricate stonework certainly prove what would appear to be impossible.  The nobility town was built in the 14th century, before Machu Picchu, and has an impressive water system of canals carved in the bedrock, and hundreds of hand-laid stone terraces.

About two hours away lay the jewel in the crown — Machu Picchu.  Through the last part of the Inca Trail, known as the cloud forest, you trek through jungle rich in avian fauna and flora that contains more than 200 species of orchids in the Spring. Up, up , up, the last 55 step staircase.  From the high pass of Intipunka, the Sun Gate, you get your first glimpse of the fabled city:  Machu Picchu.

The dense jungle of the Inca Trail

The nobility town of Winay Wayna, just "rediscovered" in 1941

 

 

The Inca Way

Don't be lazy

Don't be liar

Don't be thief

 

...up, up , up the last 55 steps to Intpunka, Gateway of the Sun

The first glimpse of Machu Picchu from Intipunka

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