The Great Inca Trail

June 2017

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In April of 2017 a team of explorers, archaeologists and adventure tourism professionals embarked on an ambitious journey to hike the entirety of the route of the Inca highway from Cuenca, Ecuador to Cusco, Peru. The Great Inca Trail once united the Inca empire’s two capitals, a distance of over a thousand miles. The team, led by SA Expeditions owner Nick Stanziano and renowned Australian adventurer John Leivers (of Turn Right at Machu Picchu fame) and guided by a team of local guides and pack animals, would create a snapshot of the ancient road’s state of preservation and establish a route to be followed by future intrepid trekkers.

Along with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture the goal is to eventually create a through-hike much like the Pacific Crest Trail.

I  joined the team for 30 days on the trail for a stretch of trail running from Cajamarca, the site of the famous ambush and capture of the Inca emperor Atahualpa, south along the Callejon de Conchucos. I documented the journey and helped collate the archaeological data for the team. 

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The experience was in many ways beyond words. We hiked along sections of Inca highway that have been abandoned for centuries, using the same pack animals that would have been used at the height of the Inca Empire. We camped alongside waystations that have sheltered travelers for over 500 years. We passed shrines at mountain passes that have been nearly forgotten since Europeans first arrived in Peru. It was unlike any adventure we had ever undertaken. 

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And  now we are making part of that experience available to others. SA Expeditions is already booking trips along the most spectacular sections of the trail. BBC Travel recently published a gallery of my photos and videos of our expedition. In time these efforts may well accomplish the goal of providing financial benefit to local communities for preserving part of their heritage, and the largest UNESCO World Heritage site on the planet. Read the article and see the gallery to learn more about this amazing journey. 

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