T R E K K I N G P E R U
Fame is nothing new to Cuzco. Once the navel of the Inca universe, later a jewel in the Spanish colonial crown, Cuzco’s current incarnation as a top international tourist destination does not seem out of place. More surprising, perhaps, is that despite the inevitable Disneyfication that comes with over a million visitors a year, the department of Cuzco continues to offer trekkers a wealth of authentic experiences beyond the grasp of mass tourism. The restored Inca citadels and Inca roads of the area are legion, but Cuzco is also home to three massive glaciated cordilleras, turquoise mountain lakes, plummeting canyons, countless remote villages, and a living ancestral way of life. We were delighted to find that we could still get lost here.
The city of Cuzco has all services, many geared specifically to the tastes of international visitors. There are over thirty flights a day to Lima, Arequipa, and Puno, as well as extensive road connections and long-distance bus routes. You can purchase anything from food supplies to topographic maps (see Chapter 3) and specialized trekking gear in Cuzco, and of course tour agencies and operators are too numerous to count. The guides’ association, AGOTUR, can provide a list of guides, porters, and muleteers (see Appendix A). At the very least, Cuzco is a hub from which to stock up, organize, and set out into surrounding trekking venues. If you don’t mind the crowds, Cuzco also offers unlimited opportunities to immerse yourself in the multifaceted glories of the city, past and present, at a vast array of museums, churches, and monuments ...
QUARRY OF THE TIRED STONES
OLLANTAYTAMBO LIES AT THE heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Many visitors arrive by road from Cuzco to see the imposing archaeological site here and continue on by train to Machu Picchu. The living Inca architecture in town is every bit as impressive as the monumental ruins. Homes and shops north of the main plaza are housed in original Inca structures. The massive stones used to build Ollantaytambo were quarried in an area called Cachiccata on the hillside south of town, on the opposite side of the Río Vilcanota. The quarry may seem close, but consider that the immense blocks had to be transported entirely by manual means, without the use of wheels. Little wonder that a few remained behind. They have been nicknamed las piedras cansadas, "the tired stones." ...
THE INCA’S COUNTRY ESTATE
FACED WITH A BEWILDERING array of excellent trekking opportunities, many visitors to Cuzco might ask where to begin. It is hard to think of a better brief introduction to the landscape, archaeology, and people of the area than this trek. The trailhead is just outside the city of Cuzco, and you can end in Lamay, Chichero, or Calca, all of which have frequent transport links back to the city.
The trek runs from two impressive archaeological sites in the hills around the city of Cuzco, north to the Vilcanota valley, and then west to the vast plateau around Lago Piuray and the town of Chinchero. Chinchero is a popular tourist destination known for its weaving, church, and Inca ruins. The most impressive archaeology, however, is found halfway along the trek at the site of Huchuy Cuzco, perched high above the Río Vilcanota. Huchuy Cuzco means “little Cuzco,” and it is easy to think of it as the Incas' country estate, a luxurious secluded villa to escape the bustle of the imperial capital. Shall we join the emperor along the way to his rural retreat? ...
THE LAST BRIDGE
THE DEEP CHASMS AND rushing rivers so characteristic of Andean geography were a formidable challenge to the construction of Inca roads, and rope bridges were the answer. The most famous of these crossed the canyon of the Río Apurímac not far from the current road between Cuzco and Abancay. It was 45 m long, suspended 36 m above the water, and was maintained over six hundred years, long enough to be seen by and sketched by several 19th-century explorers.
In an environment of intense solar radiation and heavy rains during part of the year, straw fiber degrades rapidly and rope bridges had to be rebuilt at regular intervals. Today that tradition is carried on in only one place, at Q’eswachaca, also on the Apurímac, about 200 km upstream from the bridge mentioned above. Every year in early June, two weeks before Inti Raymi (confirm dates locally), some four hundred families from four communities join forces for four days to reconstruct their Inca bridge using ancestral techniques and materials. In 2014 the bridge at Q’eswachaka was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Last Bridge Master (see Appendix A) is a documentary film about the bridge and its builders. ...
THE GREAT PILGRIMAGE
QOYLLUR RIT’I IS AT once a time, a place, an event, and a spectacularly complex object of devotion. The time is the full moon prior to Inti Raymi (the June solstice), which coincides with the appearance of the Pleiades in the Andean sky and with Trinity Sunday, eight weeks after Easter Sunday. The place is a broad valley floor at 4700 m, beneath the glaciers of Nevado Sinakara (Cinajara, 5471 m) and in the shadow of the Cordillera Vilcanota crowned by Ausangate (6384 m). The object of devotion is at once an image of Christ painted on a rock, around which a sanctuary has been built, and the apus (mountain gods) that surround this spectacular venue ...
VILCANOTA TO CARABAYA
ODYSSEY AMONG THE APUS
THIS TREK IS ALL about transitions. Geographic transition: from the glaciated summits, turquoise lakes, and deeply incised green valleys of the Cordillera Vilcanota, to the high flat puna and extensive rock formations of the Cordillera Carabaya; ethnic transition: from the Quechua heartland of Cuzco, where mortar-board montero hats are part of every woman’s attire, to the department of Puno, where Aymara influence begins to be felt and bowlers have found their way into local head dress; and transition between dominions: from the realm of Apu Ausangate (6384 m) to that of Allin Capac (5780 m), both of which lord over their underling summits and vast surroundings. ...
CHOQUEQUIRAO TO HUANCACALLE
A WORLD BUILT IN THE AIR
OF THE MYRIAD ARCHAEOLOGICAL sites in the department of Cuzco, two currently combine lavishly restored ruins with amazing trekking. Most famous is Machu Picchu, which receives twenty-five hundred to three thousand visitors a day, including five hundred trekkers along the Classic Inca Trail. Less known, with at most fifty trekkers a day in 2014 and fewer outside high season, Choquequirao is for now every bit as spectacular as its celebrity neighbor, without the crowds. If controversial plans to build a cable car to Choquequirao go ahead, however, then it will become another mass tourism destination. Until then, the difficulty of the trek from Cachora down to the bottom of the Apurímac canyon and almost 1400 m back up to Choquequirao are the site’s best protection and greatly enhance the experience for those who wish to make the effort ...
HUANCACALLE TO MACHU PICCHU
THE MANCO INCA TRAIL
AT FIRST GLANCE, THE sleepy little village of Huancacalle may not seem like the trekking hub of the department of Cuzco. Through this area, however, have passed some of the most illustrious expeditions of Inca history and of contemporary Inca research. Around the year 1440 the Inca Pachacutec led his victorious troops up the Río Vilcabamba, where Huancacalle is today, to conquer the first new provinces of what would become the vast empire. Less than a century later, Manco, the Inca heir who survived the initial Spanish conquest, led his loyal followers along the same route. He held court for a time at Vitcos, near Huancacalle, before retreating deeper into the hinterlands of Vilcabamba, the final stronghold of the disintegrating empire. Vilcabamba held out against the conquistadores for some forty years before being crushed, razed, and forgotten. Centuries later, it would become a Holy Grail for explorers like Antonio Raimondi, Hiram Bingham, Victor von Hagen, Gene Savoy, and Vincent Lee (see Chapter 1). The latter two mounted their expeditions with the assistance of the Cobos family, who remain an invaluable resource for trekkers in Huancacalle ...
|English • Español||www.trekkingperu.org||© Robert & Daisy Kunstaetter|