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  INCA TRAIL: HISTORY

The roads varied in quality and size. In the flatlands and highlands the roads ran from 6-8 meters wide, while in the steep mountains the stone roads narrowed to one meter, but were deft at defying the aggressive steep slopes of the Andes.

The Inca Trail is the best-known stretch, a road that 90% of trekkers take from Kilometer 88 of the railway line to Machupicchu. However, this is not the only route there are others that take a day or two to walk to areas near the valley, paths that run through picturesque landscapes in the area.
There are kilometers of ancient roads that still exist. One of them is to be found on the Cusco-Abancay route 3 km. from the town of Arco. There is another near the community of Qhorqa, approximately 20 km. West of Cusco. The route from Juch`uy Qosqo, in the province of Calca, features another Inca road. Many of these roads were built so well that they are still used today.

Today, thousands of tourists visit Cusco every year to hike the famous Inca Trail, such a fascinating experience that its fame has spread around the world. The trail has a well-earned reputation for the variety of flora and fauna, the landscapes that run up to the pass at 4,000 meters above sea level, the path overwhelmed by steamy jungle vegetation. People flock here from all over the world to get a first-hand experience of the same trail that the Incas walked more than 500 years ago.

The Inca roads or Cápac Ñan, are one of the engineering marvels of the Tahuantinsuyo, according to Peruvian historian José Antonio del Busto: "Huayna Capac was the monarch who did most work on the road network, building and upgrading many roads in the empire. It is said he placed emphasis on the roads so as to be able to get his army around quicker and be able to crush the rebellions that flared up during his reign." That was why his reign ended with 16,000 kilometers of roads.

The Inca roads were built by men who walked the mountains using llamas from time to time, although it was often difficult. Most of the Inca roads were useless to the Spaniards, as their horses stumbled on the stairways and got their hooves stuck in the stonework. Coaches and wagons could never have used the roads.

When the Spanish Conquerors reached Cusco, they were amazed at the quality of the roads. Several chroniclers wrote of the roads, and even Hernando Pizarro, one of the first conquerors to reach Cusco, was unable to hide his admiration in the following letter: 

"The highland road is something to see, because in such rough country, in all Christianity one cannot see such fine roads, mainly paved. Every stream is bridged by a stone or wooden bridge. We crossed a large, fast-flowing river twice over a rope bridge that was a wonder to see".
Agustín de Zárate wrote the following in his Historia del Descubrimiento y Conquista del Perú :

"When Huayna Cápac went from Cusco to Quito, which lies at a distance of 500 leagues, he had a road built all across the mountains, very wide and flat, breaking and flattening the peaks wherever it was necessary. The road runs like that for 500 leagues."
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The Inca road was discovered by Hiram Bingham while his followers were clearing the way between 1,913 and 1,915.
The Inca Trail is just a small stretch which formed part of the network of Inca roads that ran all over the territory. This particular stretch is important because it links various sites between Ollantaytambo and Machupicchu.
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