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Inca Trail Homepage

Part 2: Wayllabamba to Phuyopatamarca

Part 3: Phuyopatamarca to Machu Picchu

Sparkling Violetear

Caesalpina spinosa

Giant Hummingbird

Unknown Cactus

Unknown cactus

Long-tailed Sylph

Fuchsia boliviana

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The Inca Trail

for the ecologically inclined

I. From Ollantaytambo to Wayllabamba

This is the easiest part of the trail. It starts at approximately 2800 m (9,000 ft) along the Urubamba River. The scenery is that of small farms and agriculture land. Cultivation is most prominent near the junction with Cusichaca River. Tall Eucalyptus globulus (Eucalipto) trees dominate the valley floor. These originally Australian trees are now the most important source of timber and firewood in the area. If the trees are in bloom with flowers like fluffy white brushes, they are intensively visited by hummingbirds.

Scottish Broom: Spartium junceum (Retama) is another introduced and now rampant species. Nevertheless, the bright yellow flowers (Picture) brighten up the landscape.

Tecoma sambucifolia (Huaranhuay) is another bright yellow flowering shrub that is quite common.

Spartium junceum
Cusichaca valley

Near houses the white flowering Sambucus peruviana (Sauco) is planted. Opuntia sp., Schinchus molle (Molle), and Prunus capuli (Capuli) are also common near homesteads.

Once you move into the Cusichaca valley you can clearly see the vegetation zones along the slopes (picture). In the valley bottom, there is a scrubby forest with Agave americana (Maguey), , Furcraea andina (Maguey). Cestrum sp., Fuchsia boliviana, Passiflora tripartita, Erythrina edulis (Pisonay) and others. Distinctive is the very spiny "Tara" tree or Caesalpina spinosa.

The zone above this low valley forest is low, open scrubland which, when seen from a distance appears as a hazy green layer. This zone is dominated by the low shrub Dodonaea viscosa (Chamana) of the Sapindaceae family. Above this Chamana zone starts grassland or real Puna. Chamana is very flamable but resitant to fire itself. The annual fires started by the farmers to maintain the Puna for pasture kill nearly everything else in the Chamana belt and thus maintain the virtually pure stands of this species.

Dodonea viscosa
Tillandsi (fendleri?)

On steep cliffs a number of Bromeliads can be found Puya densiflora is a terrestrial species with narrow, spiny leaves. Tillandsia paleacea is small species with purple flowers growing on rocks. The large Bromeliad covering steep rock slopes is possibly Tillandsia fendleri (picture). The orchid Epidendrum secundum is also found here but not as common as later on near Machu Picchu.

A common shrub or small tree near farmhouses higher up the valley is Nicotiana tomentosa (Camasto) which is a type of Tobacco. The plant is not very attractive but usually bears large bunches of pinkish flowers which are simply irresistible to humming birds. It is worth while to wait here and catch a glimpse of the Giant hummingbird. This species is indeed a giant among the hummingbirds and apart from its size it is characterized by its(compared to other hummers at least) slow wing beat.

Other hummingbirds I saw here include the Sparkling violet ear (Colibri coruscans) and the Long tailed-sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii).

A true gem along this trail is the spiny shrub Barnadesia macbridae/horrida (Llaulli). This plant is an Asteraceae (Compositae) but has very unusual flowers for an Asteraceae. The flowers are shaped as a small trumpet and combined with the bright pink color, it is obvious that the species has evolved to attract Hummingbirds as pollinators

Barnadesia horrida - macbridae

And indeed, Hummingbirds are strongly attracted to the Llaulli flower. Therefore, if you like bird watching, it is good to keep an eye open for this plant.

This section of the trail ends in Wayllabamba at approximately 3000 meters (9,400 ft). After here the going will get a lot tougher. Continue with part 2.

Inca Trail Homepage

Part 2: Wayllabamba to Phuyopatamarca (the highest part)

Part 3: Phuyopatamarca to Machu Picchu (the descent)

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Last modified: March 13, 2004