The Inca-trailThousands of tourists yearly walk the more than 40 kilometers long route near Cuzco in Peru known as "The Inca-trail to Machu Picchu". It is only a small part of the vast network of paths in the mountains of the Andes that was constructed some 500 years ago by the Incas and that connected the settlements of their civilization. In the beginning of the 20th century Machu Picchu was rediscovered, being ruined and taken in possession by nature after it was deserted and "lost" for many centuries.
Together with other settlements made accessible it now is part of a protected area of 325 square kilometer under the name "Santuario Historico de Machu Picchu". In this sanctuary there are snowcapped mountains, high-altitude grasslands (called "puna") and many types of forest.
The Inca-trail runs at altitudes between 2500 and 4200 meter and there are few flat stretches. Because of the thin air it is not an easy route to walk and for most people it takes 3 to 4 days to accomplish. A marathonrunner holds the record with 6 hours. But it is advisable to take your time because when walking on the partly paved path that has withstanded ages of erosion quite well, one can experience an interesting mixture of imposing landscapes, a rich flora and the remains of the Inca-culture.
Bromeliads, mainly from the genera Puya, Tillandsia and Vriesea manifest themselves prominently. Orchids are less easy to spot, although there are 170 species recorded in the reserve. Alongside the trail however they are taken away by "ecotourists". Birdwatchers may see up to 374 species of birds. Hummingbirds are common, more luck needs one for the condor or the redfeathered cock of the rock.
Even more rare is the biggest mammal here, the spectacled bear or Andesbear, whose diet consists for a large part of bromeliad leaves and who is a good treeclimber. Puyas with their stiff thorny leaves are molested by the bear too.
Snakes (family Elapidae) and frogs (genus Atelopus) are also present but relatively little is known about the smaller animals in this area because of its inaccessability; only 35 procent of the reserve is well explored.