By Claudia Looi
Generally, I am not keen on hiking or anything that requires physical endurance. So when our guest, a triathlon athlete and a history buff came from the United States to Cuenca, I was at a dilemma. Should we take him to the Inca Trail and Ingapirca tour or to a tour that included Ingapirca and Devil’s Nose?
My recent experience on the Inca Trail and Ingapirca tour took me by surprise. Our journey started with a pick up from our accommodation in Cuenca by a private guide and a driver in a 4X4 vehicle at 7 a.m..
In the first hour of our drive, we passed through villages, farms and towns including the picturesque town of Azogues. The San Francisco de la Virgen de las Nubes church in Azogues is worth a quick stop by the roadside for a scenic photo session. The next hour of driving was through an unpaved road, small houses and a llama farm, to the beautiful Culebrillas Lake at Sangay National Park.
It was here that we started our three and a half hours hike on the ancient Inca trail. The cold wind blew as we started ascending to the hills in quietness. We were surrounded by natural beauty everywhere and the tranquility of the atmosphere brought a sense of peace and awe.
The ground itself was stunningly decorated with wildflowers, rocks, patches of highland grasses of differing heights and colors. Most of these plants grow close to the grown and the paramo flowers look like the aster flowers we plant in the Northeast United States. The trail took us to the resting place of the Incas, Paredones ruins, an old inn (tambo in Quechua language), which is only accessible through this hike.
It’s hard to believe more than 500 years ago this was the super commercial highway for the Incas from Cusco to Quito. From this point onwards the trail became wide and rocky. There was an occasional uphill climb. In some parts, the trail got marshy and we could hear the sound of flowing water underground.
We rested by a stream of flowing crystal clear water. Our guide Adrian hinted that the water was clean enough to drink.
The ancient stone trail was so wide and well preserved in this area that we had to take a photo showing the width. We could only picture llamas, horses, locals and leaders walking through this well planned super highway with merchants selling food and goods by the road.
Large boulders must have been left there for road repair or constructions. As we approached the town of San Jose, we saw farmlands by the hill, horses chasing each other and cows resting or grazing quietly downhill.
The fields were alive with animals. Dogs were barking in the distance as we approached the dirt road to San Jose village. Pedro our driver was waiting and ready to take us to Posada Ingapirca for lunch.
Lunch at El Jardin Restaurante is highly recommended after three and a half hours of hiking. The three course meal starts with a complimentary welcome drink called sangoracha. The waiter, Manuel was dressed in local Cañari costume with a hat.
The next highlight of the tour was a visit to Ingapirca. Each year during the Inca Empire, the Inca king traveled from Cusco to Ingapirca for the Solstice ceremony. It was an area occupied by the Cañaris before the Inca Empire constructed Ingapirca. The Incas respected the Cañaris and left many of the Cañari tombs and stone structures.
In the late 1400s Inca Huyna Capac conquered this part of Ecuador and constructed Ingapirca with the same construction as the buildings found in Cusco. The most impressive in the whole complex is the elliptical building known as the Sun Temple. It is the most well preserved building and the tallest among the rest of the buildings in Ingapirca.
The Sun Temple was built for religious and ceremonial purposes. You can find the ruins of storehouses, ancient baths, the king’s palace and homes for his five wives, and the Sharman’s home and kitchen. Interestingly we found pieces of broken ceramic still scattered around the kitchen area.
I’m sure there are more unexcavated ruins and buildings surrounding Ingapirca. Our full day tour with TerraDiversa to the Inca Trail and Ingapirca was well received by our guest. I was completely taken by surprise how easy the trail was compared to those I’ve done in Florianopolis Brazil and the highlands of Peru.
About Claudia Looi
Claudia Looi is an online copywriter and travel writer. She, her husband Ken and two teens have embraced the long term travel lifestyle since February 2013. They traveled in South America for nine months. You can find her at travelwritingpro.com.