Published on April 30th, 2014 | by Geckos Tales Team
THE OTHER WAY TO MACHU PICCHU: A GUIDE TO TACKLING THE QUARRY TRAIL
Machu Picchu, Image courtesy of Funkz, Flickr
Though the ‘classic’ Inca Trail gets a lot of press, the Quarry Trail is a pretty damn fine alternative. It’s usually used when trekking permits for the Inca Trail are unavailable, but the Quarry Trail is a worthwhile undertaking in its own right. Here’s why it’s worth it and how to get on it. You’re welcome.
The same, but different
You’ll be surrounded by the archetypal scenery of the South American Andes, have the opportunity to get to know some local communities and stop by loads of lesser-known Inca sites along the way.
One thing people who’ve completed the Quarry Trail love about it is that there are far fewer people along the way. It’s still possible, if you get the timing right, to not see any other trekkers en route to the top.
The overall distance hiked on the Quarry Trail is roughly 26km, the maximum altitude is 4,450 metres above sea level.
Horses for courses
On the Inca Trail, your baggage is carried by porters. on the Quarry Trail, it’s carried by horses. We don’t know if this will mean all that much to you, but we think it makes for a more interesting experience.
Set off from Rafq’a, the starting point of the trek and where you’ll meet the horsemen that’ll join you along the way. Once you set off, you’ll hit the small community of Socma after around an hour. Another hour of trekking, and you’ll end up at the Perolniyoc cascade lookout. Things to do here: take photos and eat snacks.
From here, you’ll crack on to your campsite, at around 3700 meters above sea level.
The second day’s pretty tough going, but it’s definitely worth it. You’ll hike for three hours to the top of the first pass, known as Puccaqasa (4370 metres) – where there are some pretty kick-ass views to be taken in. Next up (hopefully after some good and rest), you’ve got the two hour hike to the highest pass of the trek: Kuychicassa (4450 metres).
Then you’ve got another two hours of downhill hilking to a site the Incas called Inti Punku (which means Sun Gate – but it’s not THE Sun Gate), which boast some pretty killer views of the valley below. imposing views over the valley bellow and the Veronica mountain jolting towards the sky in the background. Impressive stuff. You’ll camp near Choquetacarpo, about 3600 metres above sea level.
On the third day, you’ll be heading downhill. You’ll pass Kachiqata quarry where you can witness the work the Incas could not complete due to the Spanish conquest. And at around midday, you’ll arrive at Kachiqata, from where – if you’re heading on to Machu Picchu – you’ll get the train to Aguas Calientes (enjoying the hot springs on arrival, we should hope) before taking a bus to Machu Picchu the following day.
You may not get to hike the whole way to the ancient city of the Incas, but you’ll have had an experience few can lay claim to.
When you’re venturing over 3500 metres, altitude sickness is always a potential risk. The ability to acclimatise has little to do with the fitness or health of an individual, and more to do with taking appropriate time to acclimatise properly. Most people complete the trek without problems. Drink plenty of water as soon as you reach altitude, don’t think alcohol for the few days before your trek, walk slowly, wear sunglasses, avoid day-napping and wear appropriately warm clothing.
Feeling short of breath and experiencing headaches once hitting isn’t rare, so just make sure you take it easy. Usually, it’s nothing a solid night’s sleep and plenty of water can’t fix. Seek medical advice before booking, and let your travelling party know if you’re taking any medication before the trek.
To prepare for the trek, full-day hikes with a weighted pack are a good idea. Wear whatever boots you’re going to wear on the trek to be sure they’re broken in before you hit the real thing. Nothing worse than blisters. Nothing at all.
What to pack
- Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card
– Money belt and small padlocks
– Small first-aid kit
– Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries)
– Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts, Gecko’s travel itinerary and this document
– Photocopy of main passport pages, visa (if required), travel insurance and air tickets
– Spare passport photos
– Electrical adapter plug
– Toiletries/roll of toilet paper/travel wipes/ tissues
– Insect repellent
– Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses
– Earplugs and eye mask (for light sleepers)
– Warm clothes – when travelling in cooler climates
– Wind and waterproof rain jacket
– Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks
– Camera and spare film (or recharge for digital cameras)
– Extra pair of prescription glasses (if required)
– 2 strong plastic garbage bags (for laundry and in case of rain) and dry bags
– Refillable water bottle
– Phrase book
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