gray stone wall

Dreaming of Old Granite Incan Places and the Andes Mountains

Many places stir the imagination and make us wonder how people in the past lived.  The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in the South American Andes Mountains are a potent example.  Machu Picchu is a famous tourist destination. People from around the world wander around the old granite stones on the site and enjoy breathtaking views.   Archaeologists uncover clues to the mystery and the question: How was the sacred place used when the Incas were at the height of their power in the 1500s?

"The Secret of the Andes"

The children's historical fiction book "The Secret of the Andes" by Ann Nolan Clark was set in the Andes.  When I was in 5th grade, I read about Cusi, the herd boy of the llamas and descendant of Incas, with his golden earplugs and golden sandals, who takes a journey with Chuto, the Old One, away from their Hidden Valley in the Andes. The author described the setting with powerful images.

"Mountain peaks piled upon mountain peaks.  They rolled and swelled and piled higher and higher. They encircled the world.  They towered above the world.  They enclosed the world within itself.  Only a brown ribbon of trail wound in and out and around them. Only a boy and his llamas moved along the winding trail."  --Found at the beginning of the chapter "The Cuzco Trail", page 111.

Like others before and since, I was captivated by the story and the images of the world of high peaks in South America.  I dreamed of sitting in among the gray, granite walls, high and low, in the Incan ruins that were covered with green low plants and moss, and hiking in the area around them.  I wanted to spend time in the Hidden Valley with Cusi and his llamas, walk on the old Incan trails, hear pan pipes and the Sunrise Call.

At Home Hiking Incan Trail Virtual Walk Link

At Home Hiking has posted a link to a virtual walk which was filmed along the "Short Inca Trail".  Inca Trail by Alpaca Expeditions comes close to fulfilling my desire to see the Andes mountains, stone steps and hidden trails. After watching it while walking on my treadmill, I feel like I have actually explored the two ancient sites, Chachabamba and Winay Wayna, and looked through the windows in the granite stone walls at the stunning views.

Obviously, visiting in person would be spectacular with the real smells, sounds and feel of walking the trail.  But since I will likely never get to Peru, this and other virtual walks in the Andes will have to satisfy me. Perhaps you will enjoy the video(s) as well.

Short Inca Trail Map

AllTrails has a map for the hike in the video (you may need to sign in):  Explore Machu Picchu from Km104 | AllTrails.  If that is not accessible, look on Google maps for the Chachabamba site at KM104 (south east of Machu Picchu) and the trail that leads west to the Winay Wayna site.

Ancient Ruins

The Chachabamba site is described in this article:  Ancient network of stone channels is discovered on the road to Machu Picchu (

Wiñay Wayna Site Description:  "The Inca complex of Winay Wayna is one of the most impressive along the Inca Trail. Located at 3,800 m.a.s.l.*, Winay Wayna is only 4 KM away from Machu Picchu and serves as the last camping spot of the Machu Picchu hike. Just as in previous archaeological sites, Winay Wayna was skillfully carved onto the mountainside. There are terraces and enclosures all throughout the complex leading experts to deduce the possible uses of the site as a farming and administrative center. The site is complemented by a high waterfall and views of the Urubamba gorge and Apu Veronica."

Able to Go?

I envy anyone who can actually visit the real place. Here is a link to the Alpaca Expeditions 2 day trip along the same trail as the video walk: Inca Trail with Hotel.

As for me, I will keep dreaming.  Perhaps I will watch the video again when I need a peaceful walk in the Andes.

*miles above seal level