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The Inca Trail

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The wonder of Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has been well documental over the years. Equally impressive is the centuries-old Inca Trail that winds its way fron the sacred valley near Ollantaytambo, takin three to four days.


What makes this hike so special is the stunning combination of inca ruins, unforgettable views, magnificent mountains, exotic vegetation and extraordinary ecological variety.The government acknowledged this uniqueness inh 1981 by including the trail in a 325 sq-km national park, the Machu picchu historical santuary.


Machu Picchu itself cannot be understood without the Inca Trail. Its principal sites are ceremonial in character, apparently in ascending hierarchical order. This inca province was a unique area of elite access. The trail is essentially a work of spiritual art, like a gothic cathedral, and walking it was formerly an act of devotion.


The treck to the Sacred site begins at Qorihuayrachina-or km82-at 2,500m.The first ruin is Llaqtapata, near km88, the utilitarian centre of a large settlement of farming terraces which probably suppliet the other Inca Trail sites.From here, it is a relatively easy three-hour walk to the village of Huayllabamba.


A series of gentle climbs and descents leads along the rio Cusicacha, the ideal introducction to the trail. The village is a popular camping spot for tour groups, so it's a better idea to continue for about an hour up to the next site, Llulluchayoc-"three white stones"-which is a patch of green beside a fast-flowing stream.It's a steep climb but you're pretty much guaranteed a decent pitch for the night. If you're feeling really energetic, you can go on to the next camping spot, a perfectly flat meadow, called Llulluchapampa.This means a punishing 1 1/2-hour ascent through cloud forest, but is does leave you with a much easier second day. There's also the advantage of relative isolation and a much easier second day. There's also the advantage of relative isolation and a magnificent view back down the valley.


For most people the second day is by far the toughest.It's a steep climb to the meadow, followed by an exhausting 2 1/2-hour half.


Continuing, you make your way down to increasingly dense cloud foret where delicate orchids and other exotic flora begin to appear among the trees. By the third pass you're following a fine, smoothly worn flagstone path where at one point an astonishing tunnel,carved through solid rock by the Incas. The trail winds down to the ruinof Phuyopatamarca-Town Abovethe Clouds-where there are five small stone baths and in the wet season constant fresh running water.


The next Inca Site,a citadel almost as impressive as Machu Picchu, is Winaywayna - Forever Young - another place with fresh water.


The fourth day, you walk up to INTIPUNKU, foryour first sight of Machu Picchu; a mnd-blowing moment however whacked you mght be. Aim to arrive to Machu Picchu.

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