Jan 24

The Inca Trail to Machu Pichu

by in Peru

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The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (also known as Camino Inca or Camino Inka) consists of three overlapping trails: MollepataClassic, and One Day. Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of Andean environments including cloud forest and alpine tundra. Settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins are located along the trail before ending the terminus at the Sun Gate.

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Trekkers normally take 3 to 4 days to walk the 88 kms to Machu Pichu. I had the option of walking the last day by taking the train from Ollantaytambo and it would stop at a point along the trail where you can get off and walk the final leg to the sun gate.
Kathy wasn’t keen on hiking that part of the trail so we set off on the train and she was going to stay on the train all the way to Aguas Calientes which is at the base of Machu Pichu.

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Just as an a side story. It is believed that the Andes were actually named by the Spanish. When they were talking to the local Incas they kept pointing at the mountains and asking what they were called. The Incas thought they were pointing to behind the mountains. The Incas had other tribes that they traded with called the Antis people. When the Spanish heard the Incas say it in Quechua they thought they were saying Andes so they called the mountains Andes. The mountains were very sacred to the Incas, they believed that water was the key element and so worshipped it and believed that the glaciers and snow on the mountains provided life to everyone.

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The start of the hike

I set off with my guide after being dropped off at some of the ruins of the storage buildings that kept food for supply to Machu Pichu. The landscaped started as warm and humid forest then went up to alpine with trees and waterfalls and then into cloud forest. The changes in scenery were spectacular. Along the way my guide got out old maps of the Inca civilisation, where it stretched to and how the Incas ruled all the way from Colombia all the way down to Chile.

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The Incan civilisation

An amazing race as Kathy pointed out in her previous post.
We past ancient ruins and agricultural terraces at Intipata and Wiñaywayna (forever young) which grew potatoes, maize, fruit and sweet potatoes to supply Machu Pichu.

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Very step climb up Intipata

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The walk was very tiring and just as I started to think we were near the end my guide decided to announce the “50 steps of death” which were the final steps up to Inti Punku or the sun gate which overlooks Machu Pichu.

The feeling you get as you walk through the gate and stare down on Machu Pichu is incredible.

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How they managed to build such an impressive place with just people and fantastic architectural skills is a feat that is hard to contemplate. We have seen Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal, Borobudur and many other impressive structures built between the 9th and 14th centuries. However, many of those were built using animals (such as horses, elephants etc..) and thousands of humans.

The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana (Hitching post of the Sun), the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.

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There were about 800 – 900 inhabitants and the Incas were interesting people because they had a meritocracy where people advanced through demonstration of an intellectual talent measured through examination and/or demonstrated achievement in the field where it is implemented. So you could progress through society if you were a successful builder, merchant, architect, teacher. Unlike many of the societies around that time that were empires such as the Khmers and Moguls.

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I was fortunate that I saw it both in glorious sunshine and then the next day with Kathy with cloud cover and completely different light. Probably had to be in the top 5 building that I have seen on our travels along with Angkor Wat, Taj Mahal, Borobudur and the Alhambra.

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Lovely view from the sun gate…

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