Qhapaq Ñan

Published on April 1st, 2017 | by Nicholas Stanziano

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Why I’m trekking 2,000 miles in the remote Andes along the Qhapaq Ñan

Our co-founder Nick Stanziano explains what the Great Inca Road means to him, our company and Peru as a whole.

The Expedition

On April 14, 2017, a team of hardened explorers, tourism professionals and private organizations will execute a major expedition along the greatest of all Inca roads that stretches 2,000 miles between what were two capitals of the Inca Empire: Tumebamba, near modern day Cuenca, Ecuador and Cusco, Peru, in the South. The continual five-month trek will be captured and transmitted through social networks in real-time to viewers all over the world.

What’s in a Road?

The Great Inca Trail is part of a larger Andean road network called the Qhapaq Ñan, the largest and one of the newest UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s made up of thousands of miles of stone-paved roads that once linked the most advanced society in South America, the Inca Empire. While Incas could only be considered an empire for 100 years, they were the culmination of successive civilizations that were born 5,000 years earlier – at the same time as those in Mesopotamia and Egypt. If we are to understand ancient Peru, we need to understand the road that connected all the dots.

Our company, SA Expeditions brings thousands of curious travelers to Machu Picchu, many of whom trek on the roads leading to the Incas’ crown jewel. We’ve also been developing experiences on a little-known Inca path in the Choquechaca Valley near Cusco, creating a trek to Machu Picchu in conjunction with the communities along the route. The lessons learned and relationships forged in Choquechaca will allow us to scale up our model along a larger swath of Inca roads in the Andes.

Our Commitment – Awareness and Tourism Development 

“We’re going let you all know it exists. And then were going to be the first to bring you along to discover it for yourself!”

Awareness. We will be sharing one of humanity’s great public works, intimately bringing the world along its paths, its lost cities and the contemporary cultures who are its keepers. Together with our partners in private industry and government in Peru, we hope to elevate this road to its rightful place in the human story. We also want to remind Peru of an inheritance from its ancestors and promote the road as a tool for dignified development of the rural countryside.

Tourism Development. We want to build the operational know-how to execute tourism along shorter, select sections of the road that can be explored in a few days and so we’ve partnered with one of the largest and most influential ground operators in Peru, Lima Tours. Together we will learn how to execute tourism on the Qhapaq Ñan, working in tandem, using our complementary strengths to bring travelers along to discover it for themselves.

A few models to consider

A Peruvian Model. This isn’t the first time someone has decided to establish (or re-establish) a several-thousand-mile long walking path along the Qhapaq Ñan. In the late 1990’s, the Peruvian adventurer Ricardo Espinosa Reyes, had the same idea along what he called the “Great Inca Route”.

Espinosa walked over 10,000 miles of Inca roads and wrote the definitive book “La Gran Ruta Inca”, which serves as a bible for our expedition team. Espinosa’s efforts planted the seeds that eventually brought six Andean countries and the UN together in a strategy to preserve and promote the road system as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Espinosa’s maps and years of work on the subject are the foundation for our exploration two decades later.

A North American Model. In 1932 Clinton Clarke decided that he wanted to create a contiguous trail from the border of Mexico to the Canadian border following the crest of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, the Pacific Crest Trail. It took 60 years, millions of dollars and (eventual) government involvement to develop a trail that is 2,600 miles long. In the 2017 season alone nearly 700 people completed the trail in its entirety.

Where the road goes from here

The Great Inca Road between Cuenca, Ecuador and Cusco, Peru has its own set of challenges, and re-establishing every mile of its 2,000-mile stone path will take decades of support from governments, private industry and the thousands of communities along its route. Today, in 2017, this great living road needs passionate and responsible humans to share its magic and reimagine how tourism can play a role in its conservation. This is exactly what SA Expeditions and our team of explorers, tourism specialists and dreamers is going to do.

Follow us on this transformative journey on Facebook “The Great Inca Trail”, real time and every day, along one of the most remote stretches of the Andes…The Great Inca Trail known as the Qhapaq Ñan!

Read more

Click on the links to find out more about…

SA Expeditions’ Conservation Efforts in Choquechaca

The history of the Qhapaq Ñan

Other great walking trails around the world

The long journey to UNESCO status

The distribution of food throughout the empire

Some of the members of our team: John Leivers and our passionate archaeologists

One of the practice treks we did last year

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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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    Qhapaq Ñan – Day 8

    *Versión en español abajo*

    In the end, we made the 170 miles walk from Jauja to Antioquia in seven days, two day less than planned. The improved management and behavior of

    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.

    Although the Qhapaq Ñan has already been a contiguous stone trail along the spine of the Andean since the 1400’s at the height of the Inca Empire and the traditional communal work structure of the Andes, which road maintenance was a part of, is a cultural practice already in place that can be organized and directed just like the “trail angels” of the Pacific Crest Trail. This is not even mentioning that the Qhapaq Ñan is one of the greatest public works of ancient man, with millennial cultures still along its route.
    It will become one of the great long distance hiking trails in the world, and our explorations and stories along the way we hope will serve for generations of walkers who come after us.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    ________________

    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.

    Desde el año 1400, el Qhapaq Ñan fue un camino de piedra del Imperio Inca construido a lo largo de la cordillera, su tradicional estructura y el mantenimiento vial era realizada con trabajo en conjunto de las personas de los andes. Esta práctica cultural era organizada y dirigida por los “ángeles del rastro” del Pacific Crest Trail. El Qhapaq Ñan es una de las mayores obras públicas del hombre antiguo, con culturas milenarias que existen aún a lo largo de la ruta.

    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.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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    SA Qhapaq Ñan

    The journey continues…

    *Versión en español abajo*

    Qhapaq Ñan – Day 1

    The team departed this morning from Jauja with 12 llamas heading along a transversal Qhapaq Ñan towards Pachacamac, 200 miles west, near the

    In three days by foot west, we’ll arrive to the great Inca stairway in the shadows of the great Apu Pariacaca (mountain deity). The set of 1800 steps will be the entry to another three days on some of the most spectacular Qhapaq Ñan anywhere on the 25,000 mile network. Ten days from now, we should arrive to our finish point at Antioquia, where the Qhapaq Ñan starts to disappear closer to the coast. The terrain for most of our trek will float between 11,000 and 16,000 feet above sea level, perfect for the llamas with plenty of Ichu grass along the way.

    Our first day on the route covered 15 miles and with better behaved llamas and more efficient llameros (llama handlers). Our llameros, Flavio, Nicolas and Valentine are getting better at their craft. We also have two local llameros, Tito and Antonia, the latter being our first female llamero in 500 miles of Qhapaq Ñan we’ve trekked thus far and adds an interesting dose of female energy into the group. She’s probably the most able llamero of the group and it’s her animals were working with while in the region. The majority female team at SA Expeditions might find this amusing that even on the Qhapaq Ñan I find myself collaborating with strong and talented women.

    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.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

    4 months ago

    SA Qhapaq Ñan

    Follow founder Nick Stanziano as he hikes 2,000 miles.

    Get ready for more Qhapaq Ñan!

    4 months ago

    Timeline Photos

    The Galapagos giant tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise, weighing up to 900 lbs. Galapagos tortoises are native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, the volcanic archipelago 620 miles See more

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