Closed for Repairs: Protecting the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

During most of the year, at any given time, 500 people are hiking the 4-day Classic Inca Trail from the Ollantaytambo district in southern Peru's Sacred Valley of the Incas to the Sun Gate entrance to Machu Picchu Citadel. Of these, 200 have traveled to Cusco in the hopes of visiting Machu Picchu, while the remaining 300 are the porters, cooks, and guides who accompany them. Daily permits for hiking the trail are sold online on a first-come, first-serve basis.  

Even with these limits in place, the iconic route is the most trafficked section of the extensive Inca road and trail system collectively known as the Qapac Ñan. Such traffic can't help but affect the site. In addition to the foot traffic, UNESCO has expressed concerns that Machu Picchu Sanctuary (wherein the trail is located) risks deterioration in the face of deforestation, landslides, uncontrolled urban development and illegal access to the protected area. For these reasons, the director of Machu Picchu Sanctuary, Fernando Asteste, has announced that the trail will close for maintenance, conservation, and cleaning work during the entire month of February this year.

Sixty specialists and technicians will tamp down the route, attend to the drainage system, reforest affected areas, undertake conservation work on the route's 18 archeological monuments and sites, cut overgrown vegetation, and renovate the campsites and hygienic services. Their work is of incalculable importance, as it seeks not only to maintain the World Heritage Site for future generations to enjoy, but also to aid in the protection of the sanctuary's varied endangered species (most notably the spectacled bear, the Andean cock of the rock, and the Andean condor) and hundreds of rare orchid varieties. As the Sanctuary spans the dramatic meeting of the Amazon Basin with the Peruvian Andes, and the trail passes through important ecosystems such as the cloud forest and high-altitude rain forest, there's a lot to protect.

Despite the closing of the 26-mile route, the Machu Picchu archeological site itself will remain open throughout February for visitors who arrive by train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (also known as Aguas Calientes), and then continue on to ruins by bus.

Inca World Team
Publication date: 29 Ene 2015
Sources: <a href="">Carla Colon</a>

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