Rotating a corner on a wooded headland, I was immediately engulfed by the overwhelming solitude so quality of Lake Titicaca. The thin air was still, the top of great lake unruffled. Not really an audio interrupted the silence. The intensely blue, icy pond, surrounded by glorious scenery rimmed by snow-crowned highs, is sacred to many cultures, the cradle of Andean civilisation. According to legend, the first Incas Manco Capac and Mom Ocllo rose from it is mysterious depths to commence their ministry to bring civilisation to a topsy-turvy world. inca jungle trek
The beautifully quiet Island of the sunlight is filled with Andean mythology and littered with Inca damages. As I gazed above the Island of the Phase of the moon, over which a complete phase of the moon had fittingly risen into a dark sky smeared with stars, the antojo reflection rippled through the quiet surface, joining the local islands of the Sunlight and Moon in a shimmering bridge of light. Occasional flashes of super danced over the faraway peaks of the Bolivian Andes. Even knowing nothing at all about Lake Titicaca’s qualifications mythology, this was greatly moving. With the Inca legends added in, the experience verged on the spiritual.
Our objective was to trace the go up and fall of the Inca empire through a journey from its Pond Titicaca birthplace, through the imperial heartland to it is capital of Cuzco, and beyond through the Almost holy Valley to the densely forested Cordillera Vilcabamba, where the Incas made their final stand resistant to the Romance language Conquistadores.
From the pond, we travelled north through the treeless, pale green Altiplano. The snow-capped Cordillera Normal sparkled on our écart. Small settlements and distant farmhouses were scattered across bleak rolling plains interspersed by low, isolated slopes. Occasional campesinos worked small fields, their small herds of llamas and alpacas grazing on thin pickings.
Beyond Sorata, we shadowed the Camino del Riqueza, the ancient gold exploration route. Crossing several wintry mountain passes, we contacted Mount Paititi, which many have searched in vain for a legendary Inca city believed to sit hidden beneath impenetrable cloud forest swarming with features, pumas and snakes with two heads!
Reaching Amarete, distinctive Inca terraces all of a sudden carpeted all obvious mountainside from high peak to river. Mile after not broken mile of valley-filling terracing contoured beautifully all the way to Curva. Peru currently dominates the marketing for Inca terracing, but this Bolivian valley surely boasts the most impressive terracing anywhere. Even after 500 years, these domains still yield abundant maize, peas, potatoes and wheat or grain for local communities.
Curva is the home of the Kallawayas, the historical healers and fortune-tellers of Bolivia’s Apolobamba mountains, who once treated Inca upper class. We climbed towards Akhamani, the Kallawayas’ most almost holy peak, and hand-caught bass from a little stream for supper. We scrambled considerably over dark rocks to a succession of high passes, where we put white stones permanently good luck and strength. Our demands were answered almost immediately as condors soared wonderfully over our heads.
The following dawn, we fought out of iced up tents into a bitterly cold morning and the sight of Akhamani bathed in brilliant sunshine against a cloudless blue heavens and practically full phase of the moon.
From the 5, 100m Sunchulli Pass, the snow-covered Apolobamba peaks stretched into the distance to our left. To our right, the Sunchulli glacier towered above the calm tuiquoise color Laguna Verde, beyond which scowled a dark, glumness ridge protected at their base by impossibly high scree.
Tired and wet, we staggered into the misty stone town of Pelechuco on festival day, which locals celebrate with bullfights in the key block. We paused briefly to watch the alcohol-fuelled celebrations before continuing northwards. Obtaining the summit of the Katantika Pass rewarded all of us with a few of the finest landscapes in the Andes: snow and crevasses glinting in the sun plunged towards the valley far below, rimming a tranquil, trout-filled lake bordered by Inca paving. And another condor perched not far above me. Beyond the go away, the landscape mellowed significantly from jagged, icy meetings to endless rolling pampas, and in the end Peru.
For several days, we crossed yet more Altiplano, and fulfilled a few hardy campesinos who extract an austere existence from the severe, unforgiving terrain. Desolation changed to magnificence even as come to Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital and “navel of the Inca world”. Limitless church steeples, bell podiums, palaces and other almost holy buildings preserve Cuzco’s amazing beauty despite attacks by the Spanish and local people during the Conquest, and large earthquake damage.
Via Cuzco, we entered the Sacred Valley and adopted the Urubamba River towards Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. These most amazing of Inca sites were all royal estates of Pachacuti, the great soldier emperor who began the Inca expansion in around 1440. In Ollantaytambo, the last surviving Inca arrangement, people still stay in original Inca houses and normal water still flows along an original Inca channel.
All of us climbed through clouds to Machu Picchu, the seemingly magical “lost citadel” that gaule incredibly atop a precipitant, precipitate Andean peak at the edge of dense jungle. Never uncovered by the Conquistadores, the abandonment of this religious, astronomical and architectural glory remains a mystery. We’d all seen it in pictures often before, but nothing quite prepares you for viewing it in its incredible mountaintop magnificence.
Leaving the Urubamba valley, we stepped down 2km to the Apurimac River, and slogged up almost as high on the other area to get to the deserted, atmospheric ruins of Choquequirao. Certainly not mentioned in any stories, the purpose of this twin-level city bordered by three enormous terraces is unknown.