Stone, Stairs, and Pain

After a trip to Cusco to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, one thing became very clear. The Incas we very fond of three things: Stones, Stairs, and Pain.

These dizzying terraced fields are stuck right on the sides of these tall mountains.

The first two may be a bit more apparent than than the last but once you start hiking around Incan ruins, you’ll soon begin to feel the arduous pain of the climbing that it takes to fully experience the grandeur of the Inca Empire.

The Incas built many fortresses, temples and farms high in the mountains with their iconic terraced stonework reinforcing and dressing the mountainside. To get to many of these sites requires a long and winding drive or a lot of hiking. If you want to feel what the Inca felt, it’s best enjoyed by the latter.

The Inca were experts with stone, cutting each piece to fit perfectly without mortar.

Machu Picchu these days can be accessed easily by a dizzying set of switchbacks and a terrifying bus ride up them. But getting around the Inca Empire before modern transportation required walking the Inca Trail. An interstate system that would make Eisenhower giggle, the Inca roads connected the massive empire that was essential for the Incas to control and dominate the land. Their empire was the largest of its time spanning from modern day Colombia all the way down to Northern Chile.

We did a day trek from KM 104 to Machu Picchu which is about 8 miles or 13 kilometers of steady incline that takes about 6-8 hours to complete. Probably the easiest way to hike the last bit of the trail to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, the hike is still no small task. I’m really glad we took a few days in Cusco to acclimate to the high altitude or else we would have been toast.

The hike is well worth it for the views and less visited, but still beautiful ruins along the way. The whole trek is fueled with the building anticipation of finally viewing Machu Picchu and the payoff certainly does not disappoint.

The rewarding view after hiking in from the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu

The sometimes very narrow Inca trail cuts along the sides of the mountains with steep valleys below.

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