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
Tecoma sambucifolia (Huaranhuay) is another
bright yellow flowering shrub that is quite common.
Near houses the white
flowering Sambucus peruviana (Sauco) is planted.
Opuntia sp., Schinchus molle (Molle),
and Prunus capuli (Capuli) are also common
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
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.
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
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: Wayllabamba to Phuyopatamarca (the highest part)
3: Phuyopatamarca to Machu Picchu (the descent)
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