Inca Trail (Irina Rau)

My name is Irina Rau and I studied abroad in Ecuador in the spring of 2011. I studied at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito and had the opportunity to see a lot of the beautiful country by hiking the Andean Mountains.

Every weekend we went on hikes throughout the entire country. Although every single one was amazing, I would like to tell you more about one very special trip. Over spring break a group of us decided to hike the Inca Trail. The Incas created an impressive system of trails, which at the time connected Quito (at the North of their empire) with Talca in the south of Chile.

In the southern part of the central valley of Ecuador it is still possible to tread in the footprints of the Incas by following part of this ancient trail. It is truly a spectacular trek through the Andean ecosystem, passing through indigenous communities and past beautiful lakes and mountains until one reaches Ingapirca – the most famous Incan ruins of Ecuador.

We started out in the city of Alausi and hiked for four days following the ancient Inca trail south to the ruins of Ingapirca. Every day we hiked for up to ten hours and covered a total distance of about 50 km (about 30 miles). This trail took us to altitudes up to 4,000m (about 13,000 feet).

This site is considered the most significant of the Incan ruins in Ecuador (built by Huayna Capac more than 500 years ago as a temple for the worship of the sun). Part of the Ingapirca ruins were probably used as a “tambo”, or resting place, for Incan couriers traveling the road to and from Quito.

Trekking from Achupallas to Ingapirca provides the adventurer with a close look at a significant Native American culture, reflected in the ancient ruins as well as the contemporary lifestyle of the native inhabitants. This is a great opportunity to travel on foot through the Andes in a nearly untouched landscape and culture.

A half-century before the arrival of Columbus in the “New World”, the Incan Empire extended from what is now central Chile northward into Ecuador. The Incan population centers were connected by an elaborate and well-maintained system of roads 5,000 km in length – a larger system than that of the Roman Empire!

The feeling of walking on the same roads as the Incas did so many years ago is absolutely incredible and the fact that you can hike for multiple days, without meeting a single person makes you realize what kind of life the Chasquis (Incan couriers) lead while delivering messages from one part of the empire to the other.

Irina Rau studied abroad at Unviersidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador, during the Spring 2011 semester.

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