The views from Phuyopatamarca (3711 m -
11,875 ft) are breath taking and you might wish to spend
a longer time here. But Machu Picchu is beckoning!
The trip is mostly down
from now on. Very soon we enter forest again. Initially
there is still Polylepis but soon the forest changes
and we renew our acquaintance with species as Oreopanax
ischnolobus, Alnus acuminata/jorulensis,
Clusia sp., Fuchia sp., Piper
elongatum etc. Unfortunately, the forest is strongly
degraded by past fires.
Finally the forest gets a more tropical character.
Species found here include Melastomataceae, Anthuriums,
Begonia's, Lichens, Mosses etc.
An interesting plant is Begonia parviflora. The
Begonias that we are familiar with are low herbs that perform
very well as a potted plant on our windowsill. But this
species is actually a small tree!
In spite of the fire damage that is obvious to the trained
eye, this forest is again quite enchanting. Also along this
road are some of the more amazing Inca sites that the normal
visitor to Machu Picchu never gets to see.
Finally at the Sun Gate - Inti Puncu (2760 m - 8,800 ft), just after you have
lamented "I thought we were supposed to go down",
there lies Machu Picchu below you in the haze!
This is the reward of a long hike and for many hikers
a very emotional moment. From here on it is a long
and (unshaded) rush to the site and many might forget
to look at the plants along the trail. Particularly
common are various orchids such as the Sobralia's
and the Winya Wayna or Epidendrum secundum which
comes in orange and pink varieties.
are in Machu Picchu (2430 m - 7,870 ft) and feeling
reckless, you might want to climb the famous Huana
Picchu (or Wayna Picchu, the spelling varies)(2640
m - 8,450 ft). After all, it is there! and you are
now fully trained!
The climb of Huana Picchu however, is something else.
It is not that far, but steeper than any other part
of the trail. Also, it is rather dangerous. The climb
is steep and crowded with people trying to pass each
other on narrow stairways. The soil through which
the trail is carved is clinging rather precariously
on the steep rock and sooner or later parts of it
may simply slide down. Hope you are not there when
Should you decide to go, and the weather is nice,
you will be rewarded with stunning views and interesting
plant life. This is where I finally found the Masdevallia
Near the entrance gate of the park Erythrina edulis
(Pisonay) is common and very colorful. From the entrance
gate to Machu Picchu it is still a ways down to Aguas Calientes
(2000 m - 6,400 ft). Going down you will notice that the
vegetation gradually gets more tropical. This is especially
the case at the bottom of the valley where typically tropical
plants such as Heliconia become abundant. One noticeable
difference with a tropical forest though... you will see
no wild palms here (apart from some planted in Hotel gardens)!
my ecological interpretation of the Inca Trail. Much more
remains to be said and shown, but there is no space left
and you have to discover it on your own. Enjoy!
1: Ollantaytambo to Wayllabamba (the lowest part)
2: Wayllabamba to Phuyopatamarc (the highest part)
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