Qhapaq Ñan

Published on November 4th, 2016 | by Nicholas Stanziano

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Qhapaq Ñan–Second Expedition,Part 1

Qhapaq Ñan – Day 1. Second Expedition

After 14 hours of traversing treacherous Andean roads, in route from Cusco towards Ayacucho, we arrived to Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán was a great center of the Inca Empire during the 15th century and laid at the very geographic center of the Inca world that went from northern Argentina to Southern Colombia along the western coast of South America. It has been said that Vilcashuamán was the retirement home for Pachacutec, the great Inca king who many also believe built Machu Picchu. Vilcashuamán takes about 4 weeks by foot and llama on the great Inca road, the Qhapaq Ñan, which we’ll be doing next year. But this visit starts us off on another expedition along the Qhapaq Ñan for a 200-mile march on route towards the Pacific to a desert oasis near modern day Ica, where we will arrive by the end of October.

Being in the Andes, we will also be supported by our team of 12 llamas which arrived by truck after two days on the highway from Northern Peru. While llamas are an iconic Andean symbol, their use and familiarity has been declining since the Spanish introduced hooved animals as the principal beast of burden. Although the llama, in its elegance and native familiarity in the high Andes, give it certain advantages on long distance travel here. We want to understand and rely again, as the Inca’s did before us, on how to use of the llama as a pack animal.

Today though, in our efforts just to get them loaded, we were reminded we were no Incas…The circus that ensued brought more than a 100 townsfolk and gawking tourists to watch us chase llamas around the archeological park in town that is the tallest ushnu (raised ceremonial platform) in the whole Inca empire. We had gangs of young children, in an amazing display of ability skipping across the terraced Andes, pursuing llamas that were on the loose escaping their load.

Half the town must have been in some way part of the llamas’ presence and our ragtag team of 3 Cusqueños and two gringos, as we chased them down. In the end, we found one of the llamas so ornery and with a zeal to run, that we decided to sell it for 300 soles (90 dollars) to the man who also played dressed as the Inca king to take pictures with tourists. We declined his first offer, but soon found it a convenient way to find it a home that wasn’t part of our expedition. In the end, we decided to camp another night and think about things and find some more clarity on how this is all going to work out.

I’ll close this first post with optimism and braced for the 200 miles of adventure ahead on the great Qhapaq Ñan.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 1. Comenzando la segunda expedición..

Luego de catorce horas de atravesar dificultosos caminos andinos, desde Cusco hacia Ayacucho, llegamos a Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán fue el centro del Imperio Inca durante el siglo XV, siendo el punto medio geográfico del mundo Inca que iba desde el norte de Argentina hasta el sur de Colombia a lo largo de la costa occidental de América del Sur. Se dice que Vilcashuamán fue la casa de retiro de Pachacutec, el gran inca rey que muchos creen construyó Machu Picchu. Vilcashuamán toma aproximadamente cuatro semanas a pie o en llama en el gran camino del Inca, el Qhapaq Ñan, trayecto que estaremos haciendo el año que viene. Pero esta visita comienza con otra expedición a lo largo del Qhapaq Ñan por una distancia de 320 kilómetros en ruta hacia el Pacífico a un oasis en el desierto cerca de la moderna ciudad de Ica, a donde llegaremos a finales de octubre.

Estando en los Andes, también recibimos el apoyo de nuestro equipo de doce llamas que llegaron en camión después de dos días de viaje por la carretera desde el norte de Perú. Mientras que las llamas son un símbolo icono de los Andes, su uso y la familiaridad ha ido disminuyendo desde que los españoles introdujeron otros animales principales de carga. Sin embargo, la llama, con elegancia y familiaridad nativa de los Andes, tiene ciertas ventajas en viajes de larga distancia en este terreno. Queremos entender y confiar de nuevo, como lo hicieron los incas antes que nosotros, los contextos de uso de la llama como animal de carga.

Sin embargo, hoy en nuestro esfuerzo de alistar a las llamas, recordamos que no somos Incas… lo que a continuación pasó fue un circo que logró que más de cien ciudadanos y turistas nos observen en una persecución de llamas por el parque arqueológico de la ciudad que es el más alto ushnu (elevada plataforma ceremonial) en todo el imperio Inca. Tuvimos bandas de niños pequeños, dándonos una impresionante muestra de la capacidad de saltar al otro lado de las terrazas andinas, persiguiendo llamas que estaban a punto de escapar de su carga.

La mitad de la ciudad fue partícipe de la organización de las llamas, junto a nuestro equipo de tres Cusqueños y dos gringos. Al final, encontramos una de las llamas tan intratables y con un afán de correr, que decidimos venderla por 300 soles (90 dólares) al hombre que estando ahí vestido como un Inca aprovechó en tomarse unas fotos con los turistas. Inicialmente rechazamos una primera oferta, pero pronto pareció una manera conveniente de encontrarle una casa a esta llama. Al final, decidimos acampar otra noche y pensar en las cosas y encontrar algo más de claridad sobre cómo todo esto va a funcionar.

Voy a cerrar este primer post con optimismo y preparándome para los 320 kilómetros de aventura por delante en el gran Qhapaq Ñan.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 2. Second Expedition

Promptly at 6am this morning, many of the municipality officials from the day before arrived to camp to watch our second attempt to load the llamas. Before this though, Valentine thought it prudent to have a coca leaf ceremony (called Haywaykuy in Quechua), which asks the mountains for safe passing and to bless the expedition. He wrapped llama fat into three coca leaves with a purple flower and then offered it beneath the Inca stones. I’m convinced it made all the difference as we were much more successful loading the llamas before swiftly departing for Vilcashuamán on the Qhapaq Ñan towards Pomacocha. It wasn’t long however till one llama, as a last act of rebellion, managed to jump the walls of the road and take off across the Andes. Our llameros and some town folk eventually tracked it down, after a 20-minute delay.

Arriving to Pomacocha, our inquiries locally took the team on a left turn up a steep Inca road that led to an impressive Inca complex called Intihuatana. The quality and beauty of carved stone at this Inca site are as good as anything in the empire, its capital of Cusco included. Due to its proximity to Vilcashuamán, an important home for Pachacútec, it was most likely an important temple for this powerful Inca leader giving reason to the level of its stonework.

We’re camped among the site on a high terrace next to an Inca bath and sun temple. The bath is a beautifully carved fountain that serves today as a massive stone shower. Today’s experience washing in it would have been exactly as it was 600 years ago for the Incas and we were excited to have a water source with such pomp after a hot day of herding llamas and hiking.

The overall site only attracts a handful of tourist from nearby Ayacucho and Lima. Although I can’t help but think that if it had half the restoration work of a site like Machu Picchu, it would attract millions of curious visitors from around the world.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 2.

A las seis de la mañana, muchos de los funcionarios de la municipalidad llegaron nuevamente al campamento para ver el segundo intento de alistar a las llamas. Pero antes de esto, Valentino consideró prudente tener una ceremonia de hoja de coca (llamada Haywaykuy – en quechua), que pide pasar con seguridad por las montañas y bendecir la expedición. Envolvió con grasa de llama tres hojas de coca y una flor morada y luego realizó la ofrenda por debajo de las piedras incas. Estoy convencido de que este momento hizo una gran diferencia, ya que tuvimos mucho más éxito al momento de alistar y colocar la carga a las llamas antes de caminar rápidamente de Vilcashuamán por el gran camino Inca, Qhapaq Ñan hacia Pomacocha. Sin embargo, no pasó mucho tiempo hasta que una de ellas, como último acto de rebeldía, logró saltar las paredes de la carretera y empezó a correr a través de los Andes. Nuestros llameros y algunas personas del pueblo pudieron rastrearle después de un retraso de veinte minutos.

Al llegar a Pomacocha, nuestras investigaciones nos llevaron camino a la izquierda hacia una carretera Inca empinada que conducía a un impresionante complejo Inca llamado Intihuatana. La calidad y la belleza de la piedra tallada en este sitio Inca es tan buena como cualquier otra en el Imperio, incluyendo a la capital Cusco. Debido a la cercanía a Vilcashuamán, un hogar importante para Pachacútec, fue importante la presencia de un templo de esta magnitud para este poderoso líder Inca.

Hemos acampado entre una terraza alta, un baño Inca y el templo del Sol. El baño es una fuente bellamente tallada que sirve hoy en día como una ducha de piedra maciza. Hoy pudimos experimentar exactamente como lo hicieron hace 600 años los Incas y tomamos una ducha. Estábamos emocionados de tener una fuente de agua con tanta fuerza después de un día de calor dirigiendo llamas y caminando.

El sitio atrae a un pequeño puñado de turistas que vienen de lugares cercanos como Ayacucho y Lima. Sin embargo, no puedo evitar pensar que, si tuviera la mitad de los trabajos de restauración de un sitio como Machu Picchu, sería una atracción a donde llegarían millones de visitantes curiosos de todo el mundo.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 3. Second Expedition

Camp breakdown and loading of the llamas was quicker this morning with every person and animal a bit more practiced as we left Intihuatana on a well-defined Qhapaq Ñan. The route immediately climbs 500 feet to a high pampa, continuing on a flat easy trail leading to Patahuasi. Although at the top of the climb, another llama decided that it was not going to be in the business of cargo. After only 45 minutes of walking, it sat down and decided it was not going to move. We waited, considered our options, and then finally decided to sell now our second llama to a passing campesino leaving us to 10 llamas.

Out the 12 llamas that we originally brought down from Northern Peru, there is unfortunately some that do not have the specifications for carrying loads. Our old llamero friend you may remember from our first Qhapaq Ñan expedition from Huanuco Pampa to Casma, seemed to have sent down second class llamas, compared to what we had used on his home turf in August. Were now in the business of selling and hopefully buying more llamas in route to improve our flock and improve our pace.

Today, after a long day of trekking we made it to the small town of Incaraccay. The reaction of the town towards the outsiders and llamas was one of confusion and then amazement as we rested in the town square. Eventually we tracked down a local official to find an adequate place to camp with water and a corral for the llamas with grass to eat. Eventually, the vice-president of the town who also doubled as the town doctor let us camp behind the enclosed health clinic.

Timing and amenities couldn’t have been better as a major thunderstorm soon hit and we were able to set up our kitchen and store our gear in the covered room behind the clinic. Pea sized hail came down and covered the ground and llamas in white as dinner was cooked and the next day’s route discussed.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 3.

Esta mañana, levantar el campamento y alistar la carga de las llamas se pudo realizar de manera más rápida gracias a la práctica de los días previos, mientras dejábamos Intihuatana por una parte del Qhapaq Ñan bien definida. La ruta sube inmediatamente 200 metros por una pampa alta, continuando por un sendero plano que va en dirección a Patahuasi. Fue ahí que, en la cima de la colina, otra llama decidió que no iba a formar parte en el negocio de carga. Después de sólo 45 minutos de caminar, se sentó y decidió que no se iba a mover más. Esperamos mientras consideramos diferentes opciones hasta que finalmente decidimos venderla a un campesino que encontramos en el camino, siendo esta la segunda de la que nos despedimos.

Dentro de las doce llamas que trajimos desde el norte de Perú, hay por desgracia algunas que no tienen las especificaciones para el transporte de carga. Nuestro viejo amigo llamero, que deben recordar de nuestra primera expedición Qhapaq Ñan desde Huánuco Pampa hasta Casma, parecía haber elegido esta vez llamas de segunda clase, esto en comparación con las que habíamos utilizado en su propio terreno en agosto. Algunas de estas están en venta y es de esperar la compra de más llamas en ruta para mejorar nuestro rebaño y nuestro ritmo.

Después de un largo día de caminata llegamos a la pequeña ciudad de Incaraccay. Las reacciones que tuvimos de los pobladores de esta ciudad fue de confusión y asombro mientras descansábamos en la plaza del pueblo. Con el tiempo pudimos ubicar a un funcionario local con el que conversamos para encontrar un lugar adecuado en donde acampar que tenga agua y un corral para las llamas con pasto para que puedan comer. Finalmente, el vicepresidente de la ciudad, que también es médico del pueblo, nos dejó acampar detrás del hospital de salud.

La organización no podría haber sido mejor, justo antes de que llegue una tormenta eléctrica fuimos capaces de establecer la cocina y guardar los equipo en la sala cubierta detrás del hospital. Granizo de gran tamaño descendió y cubrió el suelo y las llamas se cubrieron de blanco mientras se preparaba la cena y discutíamos la ruta del día siguiente.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expediciones

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 4. Second Expedition

We left Incaraccay out the only street in town, which was most likely the Qhapaq Ñan, just covered up by a modern road of dirt lined by a few houses. It’s like a puzzle as we walk from town to town asking just about every local for directions to the Inca Road that goes by a myriad of names depending upon the region. Some popular names are the Camino Incaico, Camino Real, Camino Herradura and Camino Inka Ñan. The last few days, “Camino Herradura” has won out as the name locals use most for the Qhapaq Ñan.

Today especially, we’ve had some fun impromptu campesino congresses discussing directions, although we still found ourselves throughout the morning not quite sure of the exact route. The challenge comes when the Inca road is destroyed and covered by modern roadways and agriculture. Even so, we still reached a section by lunch with walls 2 meters high and a stone paved trail 7 meters wide. As it always does, the sight of the great roads raises everyone’s spirit and reminds us why the hell we do this to ourselves.

Tonight we landed in the small village of Huayllabamba and many in the town came out to see what the commotion was in the main square when the expedition of 10 llamas and 5 outsiders showed up. Eventually, some opportunistic matriarchs of the town brought out their textiles, which after all our requests for a place to sleep, we knew there was no way we were getting out of this purchase. Although in such a contrast to intensively visited destinations like Machu Picchu, Huayllabamba at best sees only a handful of outsiders in an entire year and so watching the entrepreneurial spirit of the local women was like witnessing the very earliest sprout from the seed that is tourism.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 4.

Dejamos Incaraccay por la única calle de la ciudad, la misma que muy probablemente sea parte del Qhapaq Ñan, la cual está cubierta por una moderna carretera de tierra y bordeada por casas. Parece un rompecabezas a medida que caminamos de pueblo en pueblo pidiendo ayuda a los locales, a quienes nos cruzamos en el trayecto, sobre la dirección que debemos tomar. El Qhapaq Ñan es conocido bajo diferentes nombres dependiendo de las regiones, algunos nombres populares son el Camino Incaico, Camino Real, Camino de Herradura y Camino Inka Ñan. En los últimos días, “Camino de Herradura” ha triunfado dentro de los nombres que utilizan más los locales.

Especialmente hoy, hemos tenido algunas reuniones improvisadas con campesinos sobre la dirección de debíamos seguir, sin embargo, durante la mañana no nos encontrábamos muy seguros de la ruta exacta. El desafío se presentó cuando siguiendo por el camino Inca encontramos una parte destruida y cubierta por la moderna carretera y por sembríos. Aun así, para la hora de almuerzo localizamos una sección con paredes de dos metros de altura y un camino de piedra pavimentado de siete metros de ancho. Como en cada momento, tener a la vista parte de estas grandes vías eleva el espíritu de todos y nos recuerda porque estamos aquí haciendo esto.

Esta noche llegamos al pequeño pueblo de Huayllabamba, y una vez más muchos de los pobladores salieron a ver qué pasaba luego de que llegaran a la plaza principal diez llamas y cinco personas ajenas al lugar. Con el tiempo, algunas oportunistas matriarcas de la ciudad nos mostraron sus textiles y después de intentar mostrar todo el interés de encontrar un lugar para dormir, sabíamos que no había manera de evadir la compra de estos textiles. Aunque en un contraste con Machu Picchu, Huayllabamba tiene muy pocas oportunidades de ver a personas ajenas al lugar en todo el año, así que ver el espíritu empresarial de las mujeres de la localidad fue como presenciar el primer brote de la semilla que es el turismo.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 5. Second Expedition

Departing Huayllabamba we encountered a nice stretch of Qhapaq Ñan that took us all the way to Chuschi, which was only briefly interrupted by modern roads. Arriving by lunch, we decided to stay to get to know this important place. Chuschi is where Abimael Guzmán and his communist movement the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) began their reign of terror in the name of political ideology in 1980. What began here, lasted nearly 15 years, took 70,000 lives, and decimated the economy, infrastructure and psyche of Peru.

In a perfect concoction of geographic remoteness, rural poverty and a feeling then of being forgotten by the state, the Shining Path spread from Chuschi amongst the Qhapaq Ñan to other rural towns in the region of Ayacucho and neighboring Apurimac. By the early 1900’s the violence and extreme ideology arrived to the capital of Lima where many feared the collapse of the government. It wasn’t until the autocratic president Alberto Fujimori, along with his military and intelligence apparatus, captured Abimael Guzmán and waged an internal war against anyone and anything associated with the Shining Path. Alberto Fujimori finds himself in a jail cell today for acts during that time that later were determined to be crimes against human rights.

The populations in Chuschi and other towns in the region of Ayacucho have returned to their pre-1980 levels only in the last decade. Many had fled to safer regions along the Peruvian coast, turning what were the small towns of Chincha and Ica, west of Ayacucho on the Qhapaq Ñan, into bustling cities.

Today though, Chuschi and its surroundings are an idyllic Andean paradise where men and women wear hats with flowers in them and children play at all hours in the streets. In the main square, the national police have their station doors open at all hours, a state presence that conveniently allowed us to charge our telecommunication and computer equipment among the local dogs sleeping on the front steps. What our expedition sees in Chuschi is a testament to the resilience of Peruvians and a government that has made great strides in improving the well-being of the rural countryside.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 5

Al dejar Huayllabamba nos encontramos con un buen tramo del Qhapaq Ñan – interrumpido solo en pequeños trechos por carreteras modernas – que nos llevó directamente a Chuschi. Llegamos a la hora del almuerzo y decidimos quedarnos para conocer este importante lugar.

Chuschi es donde Abimael Guzmán y su movimiento comunista, Sendero Luminoso, comenzaron el reinado de terror bajo una ideología política en 1980. Lo que comenzó aquí duró casi 15 años y se llevó 70.000 vidas, diezmó la economía, la infraestructura y psiquis de los peruanos.

En una mezcla perfecta de la lejanía geográfica, la pobreza rural y una sensación de haber sido olvidados por el Estado, Sendero Luminoso se expande desde Chuschi por el Qhapaq Ñan a otros pueblos rurales en la región de Ayacucho y Apurímac. A principios de 1900 la violencia y la ideología extrema habían llegado a la capital de Lima, donde muchos temían el colapso del gobierno. No fue hasta que el presidente autocrático Alberto Fujimori, junto con su equipo de inteligencia militar capturó a Abimael Guzmán y liberó una guerra interna contra cualquiera y todo lo relacionado con Sendero Luminoso. Alberto Fujimori se encuentra en una celda de la cárcel hoy por actos realizados durante ese tiempo en todo el Perú, los mismos que más tarde se determinaron como crímenes contra los derechos humanos.

Las poblaciones en Chuschi y otros pueblos de la región de Ayacucho han retornado en la última década al nivel de población que tenía antes del año 1980. Muchos habían huido a regiones más seguras a lo largo de la costa peruana al oeste de Ayacucho por el Qhapaq Ñan, convirtiendo a pequeñas ciudades como Chincha e Ica en ciudades llenas de vida.

En la actualidad, Chuschi y sus alrededores son un paraíso andino idílico en donde los hombres y las mujeres usan sombreros con flores y los niños juegan a todas horas en las calles. En la plaza principal, la policía nacional tiene total disponibilidad y las puertas de la estación abiertas a toda hora. Gracias a esto fue posible cargar nuestros equipos de telecomunicaciones e informática entre los perros del lugar que duermen en los escalones de la entrada. Lo que nos llevamos de esta expedición en Chuschi es un testimonio de la capacidad de recuperación de los peruanos y un gobierno que ha hecho grandes progresos en la mejora del bienestar de la zona rural.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 6. Second Expedition

The Qhapaq Ñan from Chuschi runs along the Pampa river for most of its length until Ayuta, but with only one spring suitable for the llamas and humans in route. Even more serious was crossing a narrow log and mud bridge that the llamas, only after 30 minutes, decided they would cross. If they hadn’t, we would have been forced to return to Chuschi for another route, taking up the rest of the day. The canyon was so steep, there was no other alternative path we could have taken.

Our camp at the town of Ayuta is among the soccer field next to the three-room school. Upon arrival, the children all ran up to see the llamas as I spoke about our expedition with their teacher, who also happened to be mayor in the past and privy to some Inca sites in the area. The children eventually turned their excitement to our maps of the Qhapaq Ñan when considering their town was where the Inca walked. From the maps, their excitement turned to our camp equipment…The tents, thermarest beds, walkie talkies, fold-up tables, etc. etc. Before we knew it, we had twenty primary school children enthusiastically helping set up our entire camp.

After two hours of being substitute teachers for a comprehensive class on trekking the Qhapaq Ñan, the kids finally went home and we were able to relax after a long day’s walk. Most notable was finally being able to touch the water of the Pampas River which had been impossible in the steep canyon below the trail. I took the opportunity to wash myself and my clothes after five days…It was satisfying beyond words and then I was promptly ready for bed at sundown.

Tomorrow will be our last day trekking around 9,000 feet in Pampa River ecosystem, before climbing to the high Andes around 14,000 feet after Paras. We will stay high for five days before dropping down to the coast from Huaytara, eventually making it to Humay by the end of the month.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 6

La mayor parte de la ruta del Qhapaq Ñan desde Chuschi va a lo largo del río Pampa hasta Ayuta, en donde solo hay un muelle adecuado por donde pueden cruzar las llamas y las personas. También tuvimos que cruzar un estrecho puente de madera y barro por donde las llamas, después de treinta minutos de espera, decidieron avanzar. Si no lo hubieran hecho, nos hubiéramos visto obligados a volver a Chuschi por otra ruta, lo que nos hubiera tomado el resto del día. La subida por el cañón era tan empinada que no había otro camino alternativo.

Situamos el campamento en la localidad de Ayuta, entre el campo de fútbol y la escuela de tres salones. Cuando llegamos a esta localidad los niños corrieron hacia arriba para ver a las llamas mientras yo hablaba con el maestro acerca de nuestra expedición. Él fue alcalde en el pasado y conoce algunos sitios Incas en esta zona. Luego, los niños volcaron su atención a los mapas del Qhapaq Ñan, en donde mostramos que su ciudad está dentro de este gran camino Inca. Luego de esto, su entusiasmo pasó a nuestro equipo de campamento… las tiendas de campaña, las camas, las radios trasmisoras, mesas plegables, etc. Antes de darnos cuenta, teníamos veinte niños de primaria ayudando a establecer todo nuestro campamento.

Después de dos horas de cumplir el rol de maestros sustitutos dando una clase completa de la expedición por el Qhapaq Ñan, los niños se retiraron a casa y nosotros por fin pudimos relajarnos después de un largo día. Lo mejor fue que finalmente pudimos ser capaces de tocar el agua del río Pampas, ya que no pudimos hacerlo anteriormente por la altura del cañón durante la caminata. Tuve la oportunidad de asearme y de lavar mi ropa después de cinco días. Fue una sensación placentera la que aún tengo conmigo mientras me alisto para descansar cuando el sol desaparece.

Mañana será el último día de caminata alrededor de casi tres kilómetros en el ecosistema del río Pampa, antes de subir por cuatro kilómetros en dirección a las montañas, después de Paras. Vamos a permanecer en altura por cinco días antes de descender a la costa de Huaytará, y estaremos llegando a Humay a finales del mes.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

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Qhapaq Ñan – Day 7. Second Expedition

With an early morning start from Ayuta, we caught the Qhapaq Ñan climbing to the town of Totos, where we arrived by lunch to hundreds of Totosinos (people from Totos) greeting us. The teacher from Ayuta had called ahead to his friends and explained our expedition and what has now become a notorious book locally…Our Ministry of Culture guide of the Qhapaq Ñan that notes many of these towns in route. The mayor and numerous other town officials wanted us to present to the school children about the Qhapaq Ñan, as well as take copies of the pages where their town appears in this “grand” book they heard so much about. On top of this, the national police in town wanted identification and a letter that stated our purpose of being with 10 llamas…

We were in a tough position of having a long hike ahead of us to the town of Paras, after already losing one hour chasing our llamas above the hills Ayuta, but we had to find a way to support Totos interest in the Qhapaq Ñan. In the end I broke off with the mayor and town officials to copy the “book” and do some important diplomacy, John had an impromptu gathering with 20 or so children in the plaza explaining the Qhapaq Ñan, Flavio dealt with the National Police providing identification and letters of introduction, and Valentín and Nicolas looked after the llamas doing their share of diplomacy with everyone curious of their Cusqueño (someone from Cusco in the south of Peru) accent and look. It was also notable as the first time anyone asked me for my autograph…It was the town drunk, with one eye open wanting a souvenir on the back of a piece of cardboard. It was all quite an experience.

We eventually arrived to Paras just before sundown, where in contrast to Totos enthusiasm, we could barely get someone to offer us a field to camp and pasture the llamas. After an hour of blank stares and rambling conversations that avoided our requests, we finally were allowed to camp in the small stadium. Maybe it was because Paras on this evening was having a big party in the town square, which when it happened, blasted loud music throughout the canyon until the early morning hours. It was a long day to be serenaded all night by local Huayno music.

Nick Stanziano
Chief Explorer
SA Expeditions

 

Qhapaq Ñan – Día 7

Temprano por la mañana salimos desde Ayuta y tomamos el Qhapaq Ñan escalando en dirección a la localidad de Totos a la hora de almuerzo en donde cientos de Totosinos – personas de Totos – nos esperaban saludándonos. El maestro de Ayuta había llamado a sus amigos para contarles de nuestra expedición, corriéndose la voz entre los locales. El Libro “El Qhapaq Ñan” del Ministerio de Cultura, que juega un importante papel en nuestra expedición y nos sirve de guía, toma nota de muchos de estos pueblos en ruta. El alcalde y otros numerosos funcionarios de la ciudad querían que nosotros realicemos una pequeña presentación a los niños sobre el Qhapaq Ñan, así como darles las facilidades para que saquen copias de las páginas en este gran libro del que oyeron hablar tanto en las que aparece su localidad. Mientras tanto, la policía nacional nos pedía identificaciones y alguna carta donde se indique nuestro propósito de tener con nosotros diez llamas.

Nos encontrábamos en una posición difícil al tener una larga caminata por delante hacia la ciudad de Paras, después de haber perdido casi una hora persiguiendo a nuestras llamas por encima de las colinas de Ayuta. Sin embargo, tuvimos que encontrar la manera de cumplir con los locales y apoyar el interés sobre el Qhapaq Ñan. Al final tuve que ayudar a realizar las copias del libro junto a los funcionarios y el alcalde de la ciudad, John tuvo una reunión improvisada con veinte o más niños en la plaza para explicar más sobre el Qhapaq Ñan, Flavio estuvo ocupado con la Policía Nacional facilitándoles las identificaciones y cartas de presentación, y Valentín y Nicolas estuvieron cuidando las llamas mostrando una postura diplomática con todos aquellos que se mostraban curiosos con su acento cusqueño (personas de Cusco, sur del Perú). Tuve una grata experiencia ya que fue la primera vez que alguien me pidió un autógrafo… Era el “borrachín” del pueblo solo un ojo abierto que quería una firma en la parte posterior de un pedazo de cartón. Fue toda una experiencia.

Finalmente llegamos a Paras justo antes de la puesta del sol en donde, en contraste con el entusiasmo de los locales de Totos, pudimos apenas conseguir a alguien que nos ofrezca un campo y lugar donde puedan pastar nuestras llamas. Después de una hora de miradas en blanco y conversaciones incoherentes que evitaron nuestras peticiones, finalmente nos permitieron acampar en el pequeño estadio. Creemos que estuvimos envueltos en esta situación porque se estaba llevando a cabo una gran fiesta en la plaza del pueblo con música a todo volumen hasta tempranas horas de la mañana. Fue un largo día con música local, huayno, toda la noche.

Nick Stanziano
Jefe Explorador
SA Expeditions

in-route-from-totos-to-paras

john-explaining-the-qhapaq-nan-to-children-in-totos

 

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About the Author

Nicholas Stanziano

Co-founder and Chief Explorer at SA Expeditions. A San Francisco, California registered tour operator that specializes in cultural and nature based private expeditions to South America’s most renowned destinations.



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    *Versión en español abajo*

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    In parallel with sharing the historical, ecological and cultural marvels, we aim to place the Qhapaq Ñan alongside the great long distance walking trails on the planet . The 2000 miles path from Cuenca, Ecuador to Cusco, Peru can become a vein of economic activity through tourism. A feat that will require persistence and common vision from local and national governments alongside private industry. The Pacific Crest Trail going from Mexico to Canada along the spine of the Sierra Nevada’s and Cascade ranges was a vision began in 1932 by Clinton C. Clark, which took 60 years to be considered complete and with a network of “trail angels” overseeing its maintenance.

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    ________________

    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 8

    Culminamos con la expedición de 320 kilómetros desde Jauja a Antioquia en solo siete días, dos días menos de lo planeado. El progreso en el manejo y control de nuestras llamas en esta caminata significó poder dedicar unas horas extras al día explorando en lugar de re-ordenar la carga o tener otros retrasos que se producen con un equipo menos entrenado. Durante siete días caminamos en promedio alrededor de 40 kilómetros por día, distancia que equivale a la caminata de cuatro días en el tradicional camino inca desde el Valle Sagrado hacia Machu Picchu – 41 kilómetros en total.
    Si buscamos un punto de comparación podemos decir que caminar estos 40 kilómetros cada día por el Pacific Crest Trail desde Sierra Nevada hasta los andes Cascade en Estados Unidos es la misma distancia que caminaremos por día en la expedición que realizaremos por el Qhapaq Ñan en nuestro gran proyecto durante cuatro meses en Abril del próximo año,

    No solo queremos compartir las maravillas históricas, ecológicas y culturales del Qhapaq Ñan, si no también queremos establecer a este gran camino inca a la par de grandes caminos de larga distancia en el mundo . El tramo de 3,200 kilómetros de Cuenca, Ecuador hacia Cusco, Perú puede convertirse en una principal actividad económica a través del turismo. Una hazaña que requerirá persistencia y trabajo de la mano de los gobiernos locales y nacionales junto con la industria privada. El Pacific Crest Trail que va de México a Canadá a lo largo de las cordilleras de Sierra Nevada y Cascade fue una visión que Clinton C. Clark tuvo en 1932, la misma que tomó 60 años para ser considerada completa y con una red de trabajo de personales responsables que se encargan del mantenimiento de la misma.

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    Se convertirá en uno de los grandes senderos de larga distancia en el mundo, y esperamos que nuestras exploraciones e historias a lo largo del camino sirvan para las generaciones de caminantes que vienen después de nosotros.

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    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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    *Versión en español abajo*

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    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions
    ___________________
    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 1

    Desde Jauja, esta mañana el equipo inició la expedición junto a doce llamas a lo largo de una transversal del Qhapaq Ñan en dirección hacia Pachacamac, 320 kilómetros al oeste, cerca de la costa sur peruana en el Océano Pacifico.

    Hace 600 años, en la cima del reinado del Inca, Jauja fue un importante centro de administración que apoyó la expansión del imperio hacia el norte desde su capital, a 770 kilómetros al sur, en Cusco.

    Pachacamac, fue un importante centro religioso que se remonta a dos milenios e influyó en las siguientes culturas incas. Tiene sentido que el camino que une estos dos centros antiguos haya contado con tal planificación y grandeza. Es un ejemplo que se suma a la lista de obras extraordinarias a gran escala del imperio.
    Luego de tres días de caminata en dirección al oeste, estaremos llegando a la gran escalera Inca localizada en las sombras del gran Apu Pariacaca. El conjunto de mil ochocientos escalones será la entrada durante tres días a uno de los lugares más espectaculares de todos los 40,200 kilómetros que conforman el Qhapaq Ñan. En estos diez días de expedición llegaremos finalmente a Antioquia, más cerca a la costa donde el Qhapaq Ñan comienza a desaparecer. La mayor parte de nuestra caminata se realizará en alturas que van desde los 3,350 y 4,900 m.s.n.m, lo que es perfecto para las llamas ya que encontraremos abundante hierba de Ichu a lo largo del camino.

    En el primer día de ruta se ha cubierto 25 kilómetros. Las llamas se han comportado mejor y los encargados de ellas, los “llameros”, están realizando su trabajo de manera más eficiente. Flavio, Nicolás y Valentín están mejorando en su labor. A ellos se han sumado dos llameros locales, Tito y Antonia, siendo esta última la primera mujer en acompañarnos luego de 800 kilómetros de expediciones por el Qhapaq Ñan. Ella añade una interesante dosis de energía femenina al grupo y debo mencionar que, probablemente, es la cuidadora con más capacidad dentro del grupo.

    La mayor parte del equipo de SA Expeditions, conformado por mujeres, encontrara divertido que incluso en el Qhapaq Ñan me halle trabajando de la mano con mujeres fuertes y con mucho talento.

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    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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    #GalapagosIsland.

    5 months ago

    Photos from SA Expeditions’s post

    Qhapaq Ñan – Day 8

    Today we’ve arrived to the town of Hospicio after the pass at Apacheta Chico, the highest point of this expedition at 16,000 feet. In the 12 years since I arrived to Peru with

    Getting to Hospicio took us 8 hours of walking through remote Andean puna on a Qhapaq Ñan preserved by cold dry air and almost no people. We passed dozens of native flocks of Vicuña, a rare and prized Andean camelid, and a stunning virgin landscape of Queñua forests. I had my doubts that in 2016 such an Andean world still exists, but I am now a believer and more humbled by my complete vulnerability to the mountains and the local inhabitants of this place.

    Also an important note for anyone interested in exploring the remote sections of the Qhapaq Ñan by foot…Do not take the venture lightly. Be absolutely sure that you are with native Quechua speakers and either yourself or someone else on your team has deep experience in the Andes. Had our team not spent many months planning for all eventualities, our arrival to Hospicio could have been a much more serious had things got lost in translation. We had maps of our route, letters of introduction, native Quechua speakers and a team with decades of experience in similar situations. This is the moment in the story when I say…Don’t try this at home! Unless of course your adventurous soul is accompanied by a strong sense of preparation.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    _________________

    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 8

    Hoy llegamos a la ciudad de Hospicio después de atravesar el pase de Apacheta Chico a una altura de casi 4,900 m.s.n.m., el punto más alto de esta expedición
    Hace doce años llegué a Perú con una mochila y después de haber explorado gran parte del país, puedo decir que Hospicio es el pueblo más desconectado del mundo exterior que conocí. Los locales solo hablan quechua y solo las personas que son autoridades del pueblo tienen un nivel de español muy básico. La explicación del por qué llegamos de entre las montañas con diez llamas escapa de toda lógica en este lugar. De alguna manera logramos convencer a la supersticiosa población de que no tenemos intensiones siniestras como un pishtaco (alguien que roba órganos humanos) o ladrones. Luego de esto, nos brindaron un pequeño espacio de tierra en donde pudimos acampar con un poco de pastizales decentes para nuestras llamas.

    Llegar a Hospicio nos tomó ocho horas, caminando a través de una remota puna andina sobre una parte del Qhapaq Ñan muy bien conservado por el frio aire seco y por la escasa presencia de personas. Pasamos junto a decenas de rebaños de vicuña, un camélido andino muy apreciado, además de poder contemplar un paisaje impresionante de los bosques vírgenes de queñua. Tenía mis dudas de que en este 2016 todavía existiera un mundo tan “andino”, pero puedo confirmar que ahora soy aún más creyente y además me siento vulnerable contra estas montañas y los locales de este lugar.

    Para cualquier persona interesada en la exploración de las secciones remotas del Qhapaq Ñan a pie, tengan en cuenta la siguiente nota… no tomen el riesgo a la ligera. Deben ser capaces de comunicarse con los locales de cada lugar, tener en cuenta que deben estar acompañados con quechua hablantes o nativos y expertos que tengan amplia experiencia en temas relacionados con los andes. Al no haber tenido muchos meses para planificar todas las posibles eventualidades que se podían presentar, nuestra llegada a Hospicio podría haber sido más grave si no hubiéramos sido capaces de conversar y poder explicar los motivos de nuestra presencia. Sin embargo, teníamos con nosotros mapas de la ruta que estábamos tomando, cartas de presentación, quechua hablantes nativos y un equipo con décadas de experiencia en situaciones similares. Este es el momento en la historia que digo… ¡no intenten esto en casa!, a menos que, por supuesto, su alma aventurera vaya acompañada de una fuerte preparación.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

    5 months ago

    Shopping for souvenirs in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Heading to Argentina? You’ll want to see this…

    Argentina is a shopper’s paradise – If you know what to look out for and where to find it. This blog gives you the inside scoop on three quintessentially Argentinean gifts

    5 months ago

    SA Qhapaq Ñan

    Tune in daily for captivating updates from SA Expeditions’ Chief Explorer, Nick Stanziano, and his team as they set out on their second ambitious expedition along the Great Inca Road, Qhapaq Ñan, See more

    Our Second Expedition Begins…

    Qhapaq Ñan – Day 1

    After 14 hours of traversing treacherous Andean roads, in route from Cusco towards Ayacucho, we arrived to Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán was a

    Being in the Andes, we will also be supported by our team of 12 llamas which arrived by truck after two days on the highway from Northern Peru. While llamas are an iconic Andean symbol, their use and familiarity has been declining since the Spanish introduced hooved animals as the principal beast of burden. Although the llama, in its elegance and native familiarity in the high Andes, give it certain advantages on long distance travel here. We want to understand and rely again, as the Inca’s did before us, on how to use of the llama as a pack animal.

    Today though, in our efforts just to get them loaded, we were reminded we were no Incas…The circus that ensued brought more than a 100 townsfolk and gawking tourists to watch us chase llamas around the archeological park in town that is the tallest ushnu (raised ceremonial platform) in the whole Inca empire. We had gangs of young children, in an amazing display of ability skipping across the terraced Andes, pursuing llamas that were on the loose escaping their load.

    Half the town must have been in some way part of the llamas’ presence and our ragtag team of 3 Cusqueños and two gringos, as we chased them down. In the end, we found one of the llamas so ornery and with a zeal to run, that we decided to sell it for 300 soles (90 dollars) to the man who also played dressed as the Inca king to take pictures with tourists. We declined his first offer, but soon found it a convenient way to find it a home that wasn’t part of our expedition. In the end, we decided to camp another night and think about things and find some more clarity on how this is all going to work out.

    I’ll close this first post with optimism and braced for the 200 miles of adventure ahead on the great Qhapaq Ñan.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    _________________

    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 1. Comenzando la segunda expedición..

    Luego de catorce horas de atravesar dificultosos caminos andinos, desde Cusco hacia Ayacucho, llegamos a Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán fue el centro del Imperio Inca durante el siglo XV, siendo el punto medio geográfico del mundo Inca que iba desde el norte de Argentina hasta el sur de Colombia a lo largo de la costa occidental de América del Sur. Se dice que Vilcashuamán fue la casa de retiro de Pachacutec, el gran inca rey que muchos creen construyó Machu Picchu. Vilcashuamán toma aproximadamente cuatro semanas a pie o en llama en el gran camino del Inca, el Qhapaq Ñan, trayecto que estaremos haciendo el año que viene. Pero esta visita comienza con otra expedición a lo largo del Qhapaq Ñan por una distancia de 320 kilómetros en ruta hacia el Pacífico a un oasis en el desierto cerca de la moderna ciudad de Ica, a donde llegaremos a finales de octubre.

    Estando en los Andes, también recibimos el apoyo de nuestro equipo de doce llamas que llegaron en camión después de dos días de viaje por la carretera desde el norte de Perú. Mientras que las llamas son un símbolo icono de los Andes, su uso y la familiaridad ha ido disminuyendo desde que los españoles introdujeron otros animales principales de carga. Sin embargo, la llama, con elegancia y familiaridad nativa de los Andes, tiene ciertas ventajas en viajes de larga distancia en este terreno. Queremos entender y confiar de nuevo, como lo hicieron los incas antes que nosotros, los contextos de uso de la llama como animal de carga.

    Sin embargo, hoy en nuestro esfuerzo de alistar a las llamas, recordamos que no somos Incas… lo que a continuación pasó fue un circo que logró que más de cien ciudadanos y turistas nos observen en una persecución de llamas por el parque arqueológico de la ciudad que es el más alto ushnu (elevada plataforma ceremonial) en todo el imperio Inca. Tuvimos bandas de niños pequeños, dándonos una impresionante muestra de la capacidad de saltar al otro lado de las terrazas andinas, persiguiendo llamas que estaban a punto de escapar de su carga.

    La mitad de la ciudad fue partícipe de la organización de las llamas, junto a nuestro equipo de tres Cusqueños y dos gringos. Al final, encontramos una de las llamas tan intratables y con un afán de correr, que decidimos venderla por 300 soles (90 dólares) al hombre que estando ahí vestido como un Inca aprovechó en tomarse unas fotos con los turistas. Inicialmente rechazamos una primera oferta, pero pronto pareció una manera conveniente de encontrarle una casa a esta llama. Al final, decidimos acampar otra noche y pensar en las cosas y encontrar algo más de claridad sobre cómo todo esto va a funcionar.

    Voy a cerrar este primer post con optimismo y preparándome para los 320 kilómetros de aventura por delante en el gran Qhapaq Ñan.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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