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Alice Smith
Alice Smith Watson
Thank you to everyone!! It was a beautiful time… the teachers were so much fun and everyone gave me whatever i needed. When I come back to Cuzco I will definitely come to say hi to everyone! Good Luck!!

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» Inka Trail to Machu Picchu

One of the most interesting, short and accessible treks in the region is the one leading to the enigmatic Inkan City of Machupicchu. The best time to do the Inka Trail is during our dry season between May to September; however, this does not mean that there is no possibility of getting rains or showers because they simply are unforeseeable even by this season.

The first thing when getting ready is to get the necessary camping equipment. When dealing with organized excursions, normally the tour operators supply all that is necessary except for the personal equipment that may also be rented in the several specialized agencies by the Qosqo's downtown area.

The elementary equipment items are a tent, a backpack, sleeping bag or blanket, insulating pad, rain gear, trekking boots, food for the 3 or 4 walking days, etc.

If the trek is carried out by the traveler's own, then he must be very careful about the equipment to be carried. Besides the items already indicated he must get the following elements: canteen, flashlight, matches, knife, cooking gear with stove, pots, jars, fork and spoon, candles. Food consisting of light products such as instant soups, noodles or spaghetti, fish cans, cheese, ham, rice, semolina, salt, pepper; dry fruits, oats, powdered milk, instant tea, coffee or chocolate; refreshment packs, jam, butter, candies, bread (kept in plastic bags it will be O.K. till the last day). Even more, it will be necessary to take a small personal first aid kit containing a bandage, sterile cotton, gauze, adhesive bandages, analgesics, antiseptic ointment or liquid, diamox or coramina for those who suffer altitude effects, insect repellent, sun screen, Vaseline. Coca leaves are also very useful since that they are used to make infusions or they could be chewed in order help people get adjusted to the altitude, as well as for mitigating tiredness, thirst or hunger. Normally, water is found in all the spots described in this book as campsites. However, it is always commendable to boil the water, or otherwise to use chlorine or any other purification device or tablets to make it drinkable. It is recommended to take light clothing for the sunny days as well as warm ones because in certain sectors the nights may be cold with temperatures under 0° C (32° F). Do not forget a sun hat or cap, towel, toilet paper; shoes must be preferably waterproof hiking boots with ankle protectors. Depending on your interests also carry a photo or film camera, binoculars, sun glasses, compass, a good trail handbook, etc. All the equipment including the food should have a light or moderate weight for the hiker; some few extra grams become heavy and unbearable on the hike. In order to sleep do not leave your belongings outside your tent since in some sectors, especially during the first hiking days some nighttime robberies were reported. It is not recommended to hike all alone, do it always along with some other hikers; there is a Safety Committee in order to grant help to travelers but which is seldom effective. Moreover, it is recommended not to move away from the trail or the signaled way; if you ever have doubts ask the other travelers coming after you.

There are some basic rules that must be kept in mind carrying out the trek, such as:

  • Set your campsite only in the signaled sectors, it is completely forbidden to do it inside or close to the Inkan buildings.
  • Avoid pollution of the Machupicchu Historic Sanctuary, inside where the Inka Trail is. In the last years there was an enormous deterioration in the trail's hygiene and sanitation; many irresponsible visitors defecate in the ruins or over the trail, or leave their garbage wherever they want without considering that there are many others like them who would like to enjoy an agreeable and pollution-free surrounding. It is recommended that every visitor group should take their garbage out of the Inka Trail or ask their porters to do it, especially all non organic waste.
  • Setting fires is not allowed and neither is he use of local wood for that purpose; setting fires against the Inkan walls damage them irremediably causing their stones crack.
  • It is not allowed to gather flowers or other vegetable species; therefore, it is forbidden to spoil flora of the Historic Sanctuary as well as capture or hunt its wild fauna as many of the animal species are endangered. The Machupicchu police are fully authorized to enforce penalties or arrest those breaking the rules.
  • The Inka Trail fee is U.S. $ 17.00, including one day of visit in Machupicchu.

In order to do the hike, today people use mostly two start points: Chillca and Qoriwayrachina or "Km. 88". In both cases it is possible to catch the local train departing Qosqo daily in two frequencies (in the early morning or at noon); in order to get to Chillca it is also possible to take a private car following the road through Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Trekking from the village of Chillca (Ch'illca is also a native medicinal bush which biological name is Baccharis polyantha) takes normally about 4 days; in this village there is a bridge over the Urubamba River that must be crossed in order to continue towards the west, following the dusty trail that is parallel to the river. Today this is a bridle path, the one existing in Inkan times has disappeared; by that time, there were two trails on both river banks. The first hiking day in this option is relatively easy and serves as a training for the next days; the terrain is almost flat. From some sectors there are great views of the Cordillera of Urubamba (Range of Mountains of Urubamba) and the La Veronica glacier (its original name was "Weqey Willka" -"Sacred Tear"- 5860 mts; 19225 ft). During the first hiking day it is still possible to find small shops where they sell soft drinks, beer and cookies; besides, on the way is the community of Meskay where there is a school, and nearby there are archaeological groups such as Willkaraqay, Kiswarpata and Tunasmoqo. Even further is Patallaqta ("Upper Town" -others call it Llaqtapata-) that was an important Inkan town that keeps remains of "pirka" type walls and farming terraces. The southern part of this complex is named Kusichaka (Happy Bridge) as well as the stream. This is a good spot to camp, otherwise, it will be okay to go on as far as Wayllabamba.

When beginning the hike from Qoriwayrachina (Gold Blower) also known as "Kilometer 88", one must pass through the State check point and pay the fee for using the Historic National Sanctuary and then cross the modern bridge built over Inkan foundations. Soon after, the trek is towards the east through the eucalyptus woodland in order to get to Patallaqta and later follow upstream the small Kusichaka river on its left bank towards the south. Further away it will be necessary to cross the small wooden bridge called Hatunchaka (Big Bridge) and the Yunkachinpa community to finally arrive at the settlement of Wayllabamba (Wayllapanpa = Prairie Plain) where there are houses of peasants, a school and some material remains of the Inkan Culture. This is the last spot where it is possible to get some goods and drinks before arriving to Wiñaywayna. From Wayllabamba, that stands over about 2800 mts. (9180 ft.), there is a path towards the northwest that must be taken, following the right bank of the Llullucha stream (Llulluch'a is an aquatic plant with the shape of small dark balls, its biological name is Nostoc S.P.). Over here starts the longest climb of the trail that ends on the Warmiwañusqa pass. From Wayllabamba starts the way up to get to "Tres Piedras Blancas" (Three White Stones) which is a proper space to set campsite close to the Wayruro stream (Wayruro is an ornamental tree that has red seeds with black patches, its biological name is Citharexylum herrerae. In the tourist slang, porters from Ollantaytambo who serve tourists in the Inka Trail are known as "wayruros" because of their red ponchos). Around this zone and upwards is what is named as "Montane Rain Forest" characterized by the abundance of trees such as Intimpa or Romerillo (Podocarpus glomeratus), Q'euña (Polylepis incana), Unca (Eugenia oreophilla), etc. There is also an abundance of lichens, mosses, ferns and orchids of diverse species. Inside this Historic Sanctuary there are more than 30 genera and over a hundred species or orchidacea; likewise, over here it is possible to find many species of wild begoniae.

Among some other tree species here are: cedar (Cedrela herrerae), pisonay or coral tree (Erythrina falcata), lambran or alder tree (Alnus jorulensis), laurel (Nectandra sp.), kiswar (Buddleia incana), walnut (Juglands neotropica), sauco or elderberry (Sambucus Peruviana), etc. By the end of the woodland is Llulluchapampa that is another proper campsite over about 3660 mts. (12000 ft.). The temperatures around here are low because it is the beginning of the "High Andean Zone" simply known as "puna" with an abundance of the wild native bunch grass ichu (Stipa ichu). Following the climb is the highest point of the trek in the pass of Warmiwañuska (Dead Woman) over 4200 mts. (13780 ft.). In this pass there is a pile that looks like artificial, possibly it is an "apacheta", that is, a heap of stones and other objects that travelers used to leave as presents in the highest passes. The air is cold over here and in many cases it is possible to get snow; it is recommendable not to stay a longtime in this pass because of its rarefied air with oxygen scarcity.

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