"QHAPAQ ŅAN" OR "INKA ŅAN"
( THE INCA TRAIL)
There is a trail between the Regions of Pasco and Huanuco which very few of those who enjoy this kind of adventure have explored. It is known to have been walked in 2001 by a local expedition, with the support of the municipalities of Yanahuanca and Huanuco. Here we would like to tell you about this great adventure, where you will be able to travel along a Royal Inca Trail, different from that of the Cuzco Imperial section.
The trail joins the village of Huarautambo in the Pasco department to the administrative center of Huanuco Pampa in Huanuco (near the town of Union). You should start the walk accompanied by a local guide and with a map in your hand. The area is peaceful, and somewhat cold, passing through zones that are at high altitudes. This section is some 115 km in length, and walking it is an unforgettable experience, rediscovering the immensity of the Inca Trail and its many archaeological remains. The trail can be taken in either direction, but we recommend going from the Pasco Region towards Huanuco Pampa.
The chronicler Pedro Cieza de Leon (1550) tells of the royal Inca trails in Yanahuanca, where the dairy farm of Huarautambo was. This path was undoubtedly part of the Inca network that at one time connected Xauxa (now Jauja, in Junin, to the south-east) and Huanucopampa (to the north-east), which can still be seen nowadays. The trail starts in Huarautambo, at 3,600m above sea-level, and 20 meters from the Ricra fish-farm. Here there is a stone portico that is clearly of Inca construction, which signals the start of the Inca trail, leading directly to two impressive crystal-clear waterfalls. A few meters further on, the trail divides: the left fork going towards Astobamba and the right one to the village of Huarautambo itself. The first thing the visitor notices in this village is the fountain called "Baņo del Inca" (Inca's Bath), from which the local people still obtain their water just as their ancestors used to do.
Leaving the village, the trail after a few minutes has the traveler wondering at the skill of the Inca architects: there is a stairway perfectly carved in the rock. Our next stop is Patacancha, where you must stock up with water and then continue the long walk to Caninaqu, where the Incapoyo pass awaits (4,400 meters above sea level). The path in this section widens to about 12 meters. From here the Blanca and Huayhuash cordilleras can be seen, and also the Raura mountain chain. When you start the descent, you will reach Tambillo, and then climb up to Punta Ichichirca (4,200m). Further on there is a quite sharp and difficult downhill section, which is the border between the Paso and Huanuco regions, until you get to the river Lauricocha, in the part named Incavado or Pachachaca, where you can find the remains of an Inca bridge. On the other side of the river, a small dairy farm can be seen.
Near Llanacancha, the trail divides in three directions. Going to the right, you cross a beautiful lake as you arrive in Tambococha. From there, you will go through the villages of Cushurupata, Tingo and Caran, to the river Nupe. Then, finally, you get to the southern gate of the archeological complex of Old Huanuco or Huanucopampa, in the Huanuco Region.
If you decide to do this Inca trail you will go through two regions, walking for six days through wonderful landscapes, and on a quite demanding track, along Inca paths which have been walked for many years, over hills and through countryside where you can perceive the immensity of the area, which seems to invite you to keep walking and explore its marvelous geography.
To prepare for the trip, we recommend you to go to the village of Yanahuanca, where you can stay in one of its small but comfortable hotels. Here there are communications facilities, some banks, a telephone system, and especially a police station where you will be told about the personal security situation in the area, and may even be referred to a local guide who knows the trail well.
You should bring with you from Lima your equipment for the journey, which should include the following: most importantly, you should have a good back-pack, a pair of comfortable, strong boots, warm clothing, a change of underwear, a compass, a GPS (optional), a map of the area, preferably at a scale of 1/50,000 (Instituto Geografico Nacional), a knife, food and drink, portable fishing kit, a satellite phone (optional, in case of need of evacuation or support).
We can describe the trail as follows:
Start walking very early, leaving the village of Huarautambo and going uphill on an 8 meter-wide path, which is well-kept and seems to be regularly used by the inhabitants of the area. We can pass by the ruins of Huarautambo, with its Inca House, pools and the burial ground of the ancient Inca people.
This day begins very early after spending a very cold night, although, with some forward planning, one can avail oneself of one of the many local houses or shepherds' huts providing adequate shelter. In general, this day's walk is on high ground, through landscapes of endless beauty. Further on we reach one of the villages where we can get a good shelter and breakfast.
We reach the lake of where we can rest a little and stop to have some hot food, and to visit the lake and the long, formidable stone causeways.
We will go through the ancient citadel of Tambococha or Tunsucancha with its lake. The ruins of the Inca period citadel are still well-defined and show their progress in the construction of these kinds of structures.
The beauty of the landscape towards the cordillera Huayhuash can be seen from the steps of the Royal Trail.
Finally we reach the fantastic citadel of Huanuco Pampa, described earlier. The sight of it brings a sense of accomplishment on arriving after an almost six day walk.
So, in brief, the walk takes six days, over a distance of some 115 km, climbing to an altitude of 4,500m, with an average of 45 hours of actual walking. During these six days, a number of ancient Inca ruins can be seen, one of which is a fine Inca trail, which at some points reaches 16 meters width, and is clearly marked with symmetrical lines of stones at each side.
The administrative center of Huanuco Pampa
In the province of Dos de Mayo, little more than l50 Km from the town of Huanuco, lies Huanuco Pampa, the most important Inca center in the region, some 2500sq m in area, on a huge natural plateau (3,800m above sea-level). In Huanuco Pampa, also known as Huanuco Viejo, there are the Kallankas, great rectangular halls where activities supported by the State took place, and storehouses known as colcas, where large quantities of maize, root-vegetables (tubers) and manufactured goods were kept. More than 500 circular and rectangular shaped colcas have been identified, with a total storage capacity of approximately 40,000 m3. These warehouses are set out in lines following the curves of the hillsides that command the site and were built in order to take advantage of the temperature and the wind to create a cooling effect inside. Huanuco Pampa was also a manufacturing center, where products were made and transformed to be later redistributed to the population, especially textiles, which were particularly appreciated during the Tawantinsuyu.
The Inca center had access to and control over a wide variety of resources, as well as a numerous and well-organized population. Given its economic importance and good organization, it was connected with Quito to the North and with Cuzco to the South, along a lengthy mountain road which formed part of the Capac Ņan, the great Inca road system. Internally, the plan of the roads and buildings can be seen to converge on a great square, with an ushnu or ritual platform rising up in the middle of it, built of finely carved blocks of stone. The ushnu, which has a deep symbolic content, appears in many Inca administrative sites and is associated with a set of ritual and political events aimed at legitimizing their domination of the conquered territories.
Huanuco Pampa is an ancient and impressive city that takes one back to its age of splendor, enabling one to imagine its movement and the life of the city as a whole, its trade and all that these great archeological remains known as the Pre-Colombian skyscrapers must have represented when the Inca or a governor arrived,. This Inca citadel is divided into four clearly defined neighborhoods, which were apparently designated for the ruling class, the priests, the people, and the slaves or people from other communities forcibly integrated within the city.