Did you know that there’s more than one way to get to Peru’s majestic Machu Picchu? We sent one of our own Flighties to experience the less-done alternate, the Inca Quarry Trail, with small-group tour provider, Intrepid Travel. Here is how it went.
Having already done the four day Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu a few years back, I wondered how different a three day hike that went further would be. I imagined it more challenging, and fueled by my love for Peru after my first visit, I looked forward to the Inca Quarry Trail trek with a tour group that I’ve been wanting to experience for myself, Intrepid Travel.
For starters, our guides could not have been better. One was an Inca historian with a passion for wildlife and an avid bird watcher. The other was a very spiritual man, taking pauses at all relative sites to pay his respects. He was also very knowledgeable about the area’s fauna and carried a book about the local plants and flowers. Both made this trip an educational and unforgettable one.
Before we even began, we stopped at a beautiful Inca site where we learned of the Inca’s sacred trilogy; the Condor (symbolizing the heavens), the Puma (symbolizing the Earth) and the Snake (symbolizing the underworld). We saw the remnants of ancient alters and offering sites and we made an offering of our own to Pachamama (Mother Earth). As we started the actual trek, I could already tell that this hike would be much different than the Inca Trail.
Within an hour, we were walking through a village of the Quechua people, who still speak one of Peru’s ancient languages and live off the land as they’ve always done. Friendly and welcoming, the pride in their crops and the textiles they themselves shear, dye and weave was both honourable and heart-warming.
The children watched herds of sheep while the rest of the family ploughed the land, preparing the fields for planting. Their sense of family was evident, even from afar. As we neared the end of the first day, a mere five hours of hiking, we were able to stop at the ruins of an ancient Inca dwelling, that of a watchman or lookout.
He would have lived atop the hill to oversee anyone coming and going, there to protect the crops. The ruins were amazing with stonework so fine that no mortar was needed to hold the stones in place. From the 1300s and weather beaten, they are still standing strong.
Day 2 was the most challenging; a 10-hour trek covering two mountain passes that most of us were quietly dreading. Luckily, fifteen minutes into the hike, our spirits were lifted as we were serenaded by a Quechuan man playing his harp and singing traditional mountain songs, inspiring us to continue with smiles on our faces.
We later ran into children who were on their 4-hour journey to get to school. They were happy to take our donations of fruit and allowed us to help clean a cut over one of their eyes. For lunch, we poured some of our water onto the ground as an offering to Pachamama, asking to please let us see a Condor. Sure enough, within the hour, one circled overhead and made its presence known – needless to say, we were blown away.
Our guides were by our sides the entire hike, answering any questions that we had and pointing out anything that we may have missed. When we got to the first pass – all I could say was WOW. It was one of the Apus (white mountains). These snow capped peaks were also sacred and prayed to, with four in the area surrounding Cusco. The view left many of us, myself included, speechless.
In the distance, between us and the peaks, we could see a town and the great Amazon River snaking around the hills, and beyond that, the beginning of the Amazonian cloud forest. This long, very consuming trek ended with a visit to the Sun Gate; a perfectly constructed monument through which the sun’s first rays directly hit to signal the Winter Solstice – an ancient calendar.
On the final day, we walked through more sleepy villages but this time, and to our delight, these villages were home to those that have been walking with us, those cooking and those that were great company. One of the best things about Intrepid Travel is their philosophy of employing local people to help the local economy.
We watched their children tending to the animals and stopped to talk to all of them. It is always nice to see people in their own element, how they live, dress and behave. The kids were so loving and took care of one another. We gave a pack of four cookies to the oldest of three, only to watch her give one to each of her little brothers, break the third one in half for them to share, keeping only one for herself – a sight to see when you come from a family of six yourself and still remember fighting for the last cookie on the tray growing up.
Muchas gracias, Intrepid. What an incredible experience!
Is Peru on your travel radar? Explore the road less travelled with Intrepid Travel. Dynamic small group tours using local guides for the most authentic experiences. Enquire online, call 1877 967 5302 for more information or to book or visit your nearest Flight Centre store location today.