Inca road system


Inca road system

Among the many roads and trails constructed in pre-Columbian South America, the Inca road system, or Qhapaq Ñan [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. page 242. ISBN 0-631-17677-2] was the most extensive. The network was based on two north-south roads. The eastern route ran high in the puna and mountain valleys from Quito, Ecuador to Mendoza, Argentina. The western route followed the coastal plain except in coastal deserts where it hugged the foothills. More than twenty routes ran over the western mountains, while others traversed the eastern cordilla in the montana and lowlands. Some of these roads reach heights of over 5,000 m (16,500 ft) above sea level. [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. page 242. ISBN 0-631-17677-2] The trails connected the regions of the Inca empire from the northern provincial capital in Quito, Ecuador past the modern city of Santiago, Chile in the south. The Inca road system linked together about 40,000 km of roadway [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. page 242. ISBN 0-631-17677-2] and provided access to over three million km² of territory.

The roads provided routes for rapid communication, personnel movement, and logistical support. The prime users were soldiers, porters and llama caravans, along with the nobility and individuals on official duty. Permission was required before others could walk along the roads, and tolls were charged at some bridges. [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. pages 242,2 43. ISBN 0-631-17677-2] Although the Inca roads varied greatly in scale, construction and appearance, for the most part they varied between about one and four meters in width. [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. pages 245. ISBN 0-631-17677-2]

Much of the system was the result of the Incas claiming exclusive right over numerous traditional routes, some of which had been built centuries earlier. Many new sections were built or upgraded substantially: through Chile's Atacama desert, and along the western margin of Lake Titicaca, as two examples. [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. page 242. ISBN 0-631-17677-2] [Provincial Power in the Inka Empire. by Terence N. D'Altroy. 1992. Smithsonian Institution. page 97 ISBN 1-56098-115-6]

Spanish chroniclers frequently described lengthy journeys made by the Inca ruler, carried on a litter, and surrouded by thousands of soldiers and retainers, to various parts of his empire. [Life Styles of the Rich and Famouse: Luxury and Daily Life in the Households of Machu Picchu's Elite. Lucy C. Salazar and Richard L. Burger. [http://www.peabody.yale.edu/education/curric/MPss/MParticle.pdf] ]

Because the Incas did not make use of the wheel for transportation, and did not have horses until the arrival of the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century, the trails were used almost exclusively by people walking, sometimes accompanied by pack animals, usually the llama.

Relay messengers, or chasqui, stationed at intervals of 6 to 9 km, carried both messages and objects such as fresh marine fish for the rulers in the sierra. Messages consisted of knotted-cord records known as quipu along with a spoken message. Chaskis could cover an estimated 240 km per day. [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. pages 243. ISBN 0-631-17677-2]

There were at least 1,000 and perhaps 2,000 way stations or
tambos, placed at even intervals along the trails. These structures were intended to lodge and provision itinerant state personnel. [Provincial Power in the Inka Empire. by Terence N. D'Altroy. 1992. Smithsonian Institution. page 101 ISBN 1-56098-115-6]

Various means were used to bridge water courses. Rafts were used to cross wide meandering rivers. Bridges built of stone or floating reeds were used in marshy highlands. Inca rope bridges provided access across narrow valleys. A bridge across the Apurimac River, west of Cuzco, spanned a distance of 45 meters. Ravines were sometimes crossed by hanging baskets, or oroya, which could span distances of over 50 meters. Bridges were sometimes built in pairs. [The Incas. by Terrence N. D'Altroy. Blackwell Publishers Inc. 2002. pages 245, 246. ISBN 0-631-17677-2]

Main routes

The most important Inca road was the "Camino Real", as it is known in Spanish, with a length of 5,200 km (3,230 mi). It began in Quito, Ecuador, passed through Cusco, and ended in what is now Tucumán, Argentina. The Camino Real traversed the mountain ranges of the Andes, with peak altitudes of more than 5,000 m. "El Camino de la Costa", the coastal trail, with a length of 4,000 km (2,420 mi), ran parallel to the sea and was linked with the Camino Real by many smaller routes.

Machu Picchu itself was far off the beaten path, [ [http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/02_12/machupicchu.html "Rediscovering Machu Picchu"] by Bruce Fellman, "Yale Alumni Magazine" (December 2002)] ] and served as a royal estate populated by the ruling Inca and several hundred servants. It required regular infusions of goods and sevices from Cuzco and other parts of the empire. This is evidenced by the fact that there are no large government storage facilities at the site. A 1997 study concluded that the site's argicultural potential would not have been sufficient to support residents, even on a seasonal basis. [Life Styles of the Rich and Famouse: Luxury and Daily Life in the Households of Machu Picchu's Elite. Lucy C. Salazar and Richard L. Burger. [http://www.peabody.yale.edu/education/curric/MPss/MParticle.pdf] ]

Inca trail to Machu Picchu

The Inca trail to Machu Picchu, aka Camino Inca or Camino Inka, consists of three overlapping trails: "Mollepata", "Classic" and "One Day". "Mollepata" is the longest of the three routes with the highest mountain pass and intersects with the Classic route before crossing "Dead Woman's Pass". 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 on Machu Picchu mountain. The two longer routes require an ascent to beyond 12,000 ft (3,660 m) above sea level, which can result in altitude sickness.

Concern about overuse leading to erosion has led the Peruvian government to place a limit on the number of people who may hike this trail per season, and to sharply limit the companies that can provide guides. As a result, advance booking is mandatory. A maximum of 500 people, including guides and porters, are permitted to begin the trail every day. As a result, the high season books out very quickly.

Note that the trail is closed every February for cleaning.

The Classic Trail

Trekkers normally take three or four days to complete the "Classic Inca Trail". [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 6. 2006] It starts from one of two points: km 88 or km 82 from Cuzco on the Urubamba River at approximately 2,800 m altitude. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 44. 2006] ), a site used for religious and ceremonial functions, crop production, and housing for soldiers from the nearby hilltop site of Willkaraqay, an ancient pre-Inca site first inhabited around 500 BC. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 46. 2006] The trail undulates, but overall ascends along Rio Cusichca (aka River Kusichca aka "happy river"). At the small village of Wayllabamba the trail intersects with the "Mollepata Trail" at 3000 m (9800 ft) altitude. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 47. 2006]

Small, permanent settlements are located adjacent to the trail, and Wayllabamba has approximately 400 inhabitants (130 families) spread along this portion of the trail, [http://www.parkswatch.org/parkprofile.php?l=eng&country=per&park=mphs&page=hum] and pack animals—horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas—are allowed.

At Wayllabamba the trail to Machu Picchu turns west and begins ascending along a tributary of the Cusichca. Because of previous damage caused by hooves, pack animals are not allowed on the remainder of the trail. For the same reason, metal-tipped trekking poles are not allowed on the trail.

trees. The name refers to a resembelence to a supine woman.The campsite at Llulluchapampa is located on this stretch of trail. at 3,800 m/12,460’. The pass itself is located at 4,215 m above sea level, and is the highest point on this, the "Classic" trail.

After crossing the pass the trial drops steeply into the Pacaymayu River drainage. At a distance of 2.1 km and 600 m below the pass is the campground Pacaymayu. of Runkuraqay, which overlooks the valley. The site was heavily restored in the late 1990s. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 50. 2006]

The trial continues to ascend, passing a small lake named Laguna Cochapata [Cuzco Region Machu Picchu - Peru. ITMB Publishing International Travel Maps] in an area that is recognized as deer habitat. This site had been used as a camp site. As with other sites that were being degraded due to overuse, camping is no longer allowed. The trial reaches a pass at an altitude of 3,950 m.

Once again the trail descends steeply, then more gently, passes another small lake and soon affords a view of Sayaqmarka, perched atop a sheer rocky spur. Sayaqmarka is at an altitude of 3,600 m/ 11,800 ft. A steep, narrow staircase leads up to the extensive, heavily restored ruins, which include many building spread along approximately 80 m of ridge top. This site was named by a 1940s expedition by Paul Fejos and Sayaqmarka can be translated as "inaccesible town". Sayaqmarka overlooks both the "Classic Inca Trail" and another uncleared trail that leads down into Aobamba River drainage, and was a signaling location. There are no argicultrual terraces here, but the nearby site of Conchamarka (Shell Town), a small group of Incan buildings standing on rounded terraces, is clearly visible. After descending into a small drainage and Conchamarke, the trial begins an accent and within 0.6 km passes a campground at Chaquicocha. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 50, 51. 2006] [Cusco & the Inca heartland. 208. Footprint. ISBN 987 1 906098 20 9]

The Trail continues through high cloud forest, undulating, sometime steeply while affording with increasingly dramatic viewpoints of mountains and dropoffs. A long Inca tunnel and a viewpoint overlooking two valleys: the Urubamba and Aobamba, are passed. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 51. 2006] [Cusco & the Inca heartland. 208. Footprint. ISBN 987 1 906098 20 9] Another high point at altitude of 3,650 m is crossed, followed by a campground, and then after a short descent, a site with extensive ruins. The name Phuyupatmarka (Cloud-level Town)(poo-yoo-patta-marka) is applied to both the campground, and the ruins. [Cusco & the Inca heartland. 208. Footprint. ISBN 987 1 906098 20 9] [Cuzco Region Machu Picchu - Peru. ITMB Publishing International Travel Maps] [Camino Inka. Instituto Nactional de Cultura. Direccion Regional de Cultura Cuzco. Parque Arqueologic National de Machu Picchu. Ley No 28296] Howard Bingham discoverd the site, but left most of it covered with vegetation. The Fejos team named the site, and uncovered the remainder. Design of the site closely follows the the natural contours, and includes five fountains and an altar, which was probably used for llama sacrifice. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 52. 2006]

The trail then decends approximately a thousand meters including an irregular staircase of from 1,300 to 1,500 steps, some of which were carved into solid granite. Vegetation becomes more dense, lush, and "jungle" like with an accompanying increase in butterfiles and birds. A second Incan tunnel is along this section of trail. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 53. 2006]

Even before passing through the tunnel there are views down to the Urubamba River, the first since leaving the river at Patallacta. The number of these views increases. After the tunnel the town of Aquas Caliente can be seen, and trains running along the river can be heard. As the trail nears Intipata, it affords views of the "Two Day" Inca Trail (aka "Camino Real de los Inkas" or "One Day Inca Trail"). [Camino Inka. Instituto Nactional de Cultura. Direccion Regional de Cultura Cuzco. Parque Arqueologic National de Machu Picchu. Ley No 28296] [Cusco & the Inca heartland. 208. Footprint. ISBN 987 1 906098 20 9] A small spur of the trail leads directly to Wiñay Wayna, while the main route continues to Intipata.

Intipata (sunny place aka Yunkapata [Camino Inka. Instituto Nactional de Cultura. Direccion Regional de Cultura Cuzco. Parque Arqueologic National de Machu Picchu. Ley No 28296] ) is a recently uncovered extensive set of argicultural terraces which follow the convex shape of the terrain. Potatoes, maize, fruit, and sweet potato were grown here. [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 53. 2006]

(forever young)(win-yay-way-na) is used to refer to both a hostel/restaurant/camp site and a set of Inca ruins. Two groups of major architectural structures, lower and upper, are set among multiple agricultural terraces at this concave mountain side site. A long flight of fountains or ritual baths utilizing as many as 19 springs runs between the two groups of buildings. [The Rough Guide to Peru. By Dilwyn Jenkins. Contributor Dilwyn Jenkins. Rough Guides. 2003. page 169. ISBN 1843530740, 9781843530749]

From Wiñay Wayna the trail undulates along below the crest of the east slope of the mountain named Machu Picchu. The steep stairs leading to Intipunku (sun gate) are reached after approximately 3 km. Reaching the crest of this ridge reveals the granduer of the ruins of Machu Picchu, which lie below. A short downhill walk is the final section of the trail. [Camino Inka. Instituto Nactional de Cultura. Direccion Regional de Cultura Cuzco. Parque Arqueologic National de Machu Picchu. Ley No 28296] [Explore the Inca Trail. Rucksack Readers. page 54. 2006]

References

Further reading

* Moseley, Michael 1992. "The Incas and their Ancestors: The archaeology of Peru." Thames and Hudson, New York.
* Hyslop, John, 1984. "Inka Road System." Academic Press, New York.
* "Inca: Lords of Gold and Glory." Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1992.
*"Andean World: Indigenous History: Culture and Consciousness" by Kenneth Adrien.Footprints Cusco and the Inca Trail handbook by Peter Frost and Ben Box

External links

* [http://www.qhapaq-nan.com/indexen.html Site Qhapaq Ñan, the Great Inca Road - 6000 km on foot across the Andes]
* [http://agutie.homestead.com/files/inca_trail_machu_picchu_map.html Inca Trail to Machu Picchu] Interactive Map
* [http://www.chemin-inca.org/Inca-trail.html A project about the Inca Trail]
* [http://www.armageddonpills.com/ge/inca_trail.kmz View a portion of the Inca Trail, leading to Machu Picchu, in Google Earth]


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