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
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
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.