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Yanahuanca - La Union Inca Trail
Yanahuanca - La Union Inca Trail
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Yanahuanca - La Union Inca Trail

Yanahuanca Bridge

Yanahuanca - La Union Inca Trail
Cerro de Pasco - Huanuco, Peru.

Description of the trail from Yanahuanca, Cerro de Pasco to La Union, Huanuco, which belongs to the Royal Inca Road.
In July, 1979, Dr. John Hyslop explored the Inca trail from south to north, from Chaupiguaranga (Yanahuanca) in Cerro de Pasco to Huanucopampa (La Union) in Huanuco. There have been no publications since 1981 of accounts of exploration of the Inca road. So, taking this into consideration, the Trekking and Backpacking Club (TEBAC) and Incatrails Explorations is preparing five different expeditions to valuate the roads of the northern part of Peru from Ayabaca in Piura to Yanahuanca in Cerro de Pasco in Central Peru.
Representing TEBAC and Incatrails Explorations, I am Miguel Chiri Valle, trek leader in the Cordillera Blanca, Huayhuash and the Incaroads. The purpose of the expedition is to find ways to make El Camino Real safe and attractive to tourists.
My investigation started with the maps of the Instituto Geografico Militar. They were very useful because they had the tracing of the previous trek on the maps. I found additional information in Royal Roads of the Incas by Victor W. Von Hagen, and the Cronicas of Pedro Cieza de Leon (1550). I also read The Inca Road System by Dr. John Hyslop and made an outline of his journey.


With this information from my research I started to put the trip together. I got help from NESTLE PERU which provided dehydrated foods and also OUTDOOR EXPEDITIONS which provided gas cartridges for the cooking. And off I went. The date was set for May 28. I took a bus from Lima to Cerro de Pasco, an eight-hour ride. Once the bus arrived in Cerro de Pasco (4,354 meters), I took a small bus to Yanahuanca (3,200 meters). This trip took two hours. I stayed overnight in the Hostal Municipal, four blocks from the main square.
Yanahuanca has a small square with big eucalyptus trees. The Andean architecture gives you a special feeling. Restaurants and small stores (tiendas) are all around, and there is a market nearby.
Here in Yanahuanca you can decide if you want to walk out of town toward the entrance to the Inca trail and then go up to Huarautambo or bypass the beginning of the trail by taking a taxi (colectivo).


I made this hike with a backpack the weighed 25 kilos (55 lbs.) on the route that I will describe in a period of nine days, walking six to eight hours a day. I carried a two-liter bottle of water because there are places where water is not readily available. The length of the trail is 80 kilometers (49.6 miles).

DAY 1.- The day before I had gone by car to Huarautambo to scout the area. I decided to start by foot from Yanahuanca (3,200 meters) and took the road that heads to Huarautambo (3,600 meters), passing the trout farm of Ricra. Twenty meters farther is a place where there is an entry to the trail of El Camino Real. Here you start the climb. Along the way there are two impressive waterfalls. The road divides; the one to the left goes to Astobamba, and the one to the right, which crosses the stream of the water fall, takes you up to Huarautambo.
On the main square of the village of Huarautambo there are two small stores, the office of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC), and a water fountain called "El Baño del Inca" (Inca bath), which today is the fountain where the people of the town get their water. Huarautambo has a well-kept ruin that was a Tambo used by the Incas. At the ticket office of the INC you pay a fee, and the site caretaker will open the door so you can visit the ruin, and if you ask, you can camp there.
Next to the town there is an Inca bridge over the river, and on the other side you can see the village of Astobamba. There you will find more Inca ruins. Ask for Sr. Victor Hinostroza in order to visit his private ruin. The village of Astobamba has two restaurants and a cafe. You can camp beside the river. I camped by the river on the Huarautambo side next to the school because within a short distance there is an outhouse (bathroom). Beautiful sunset and a great night to see the stars.

DAY 2.- People in Huarautambo are friendly, so if you ask for directions, they will help you. You leave the town early and head toward the valley. Once you get near the gorge, you will start going up a narrow road that has a group of perfect stairs. Some of the steps are built of rocks, and others are carved in the rock. Walking over stone-paved roads, you will pass Patacancha which has a nice waterfall.
From here you will not have access to water until you arrive at Marey Marey, which is located on the left side of the road where you can see some houses. Farther on there is a water well. A good place to camp. Replenish your water supply because there is no water ahead. WARNING: Be aware of dogs on the trail.

DAY 3.- You get back on the road and start the hike, passing the villages of Caninaqu and Andahuaylas, heading to Incapoyo. At 4,400 meters there is a pass. The road that will take you there is twelve meters wide.
Once you reach the pass, keep going and you will see a chain of snowcapped mountains, the Cordillera Raura and Huayhuash. Once you start going down, you pass some creeks and you will arrive at the village of Tambillo. Sr Cornelio's house is next to the road, a good camping place, and you are next to a stream.

DAY 4.- This will be a long day. If you like, get up early at 6 am., and you will have clear sky to take a walk to the Mirador de Chiripunta. Ask Sr.Cornelio. If someone takes you there, give them a tip. Here you will be able to see the Cordillera Raura, Huayhuash, and Blanca. This is one of the best lookouts of the trek. It will take you about two hours round trip.
Back in Tambillo you take the road and head to Ancopalca and Pampahuay and then up to Punta Ichichirca (4,200 meters). From here you get a view of the mountains and follow the road to Llanagalan. You will start going toward the river mouth of the Lauricocha river, which is called Incavado or Pachachaca. There used to be an Inca bridge there. On the other side of the river you can see a small Tambo. Once you get to the riverbank you go to the left, and there is a good place to camp.

DAY 5.- The only way to go through is by wading across the river. You can see clearly where you enter the river and where you go out. I recommend that you wade across the river in shorts and with tennis shoes and change on the other side. Here you start going up toward the big boulder at the top. Don't go below the boulder but take the left road. From there you head to Llanacancha and Gashapampa, and you will arrive at a three-way road division. If you go right, that is Pizarro's road; if you go straight, that goes to Tambococha, a lake on the Inca Road. This area is difficult to pass through because you have to walk on mushy soil to get to the other side of the lake.
The third road goes to the left. I decided to take this one and went toward Huachaj. There is a group of houses next to the road. Pass these and keep going until you arrive at a stream, a good camping spot.

DAY 6.- On this day it will be long walk because you will be going around the base of a hill, then across a small river. Go toward the right,up the valley that will take you to Licujircan where you get back on the trail. In this area you start seeing a stone-paved road of about six meters wide. You pass Cushurupata, Tingo, and Caran, arriving at the Rio Nupe, and then at the town of San Luis. You take the road to Pilcocancha.
Right across the river is Aguas Termales (hot springs). In Aguas Termales you can see a big field, and at the center there is a place called Baño del Inca. The entry is free, and you can take a bath and camp next to the river. Don't forget to rinse in the river. About a 100 mt. there is a Hot Spring with a swimming pool.

DAY 7.- Start the road up to Pumawain, going toward Vista Alegre. You can spend some time in the main square. There is a water well, and the house next to it sells good cheese. A few meters down the road there is a store, the only one on the Inca Road.
If you continue twenty minutes more, you will arrive at a stream, a good place to camp. In this part of the road be cautious with the dogs.

DAY 8.- The first hour of the hike you will be going up to Huartuspunta, where the land will get flat and you will pass Iscopampa. Here you keep going straight on the road to Piedras and down the valley to Huejgueto lagoon.
Passing it, you have two options. If you go straight, you will arrive at the south gate of the archeological site of Huanuco Viejo, one of the biggest administrative centers and tambos in the Inca empire. The problem is that the entry to the site is on the east side, so you will have to walk across an open field to reach the front entrance. In the second option you go to the right and take the car road that will connect with the road that leads you to the entry. You camp there, and a stream is close by. Before you set up camp, take a walk into the ruins. You pay an entry fee, also if you like a guide you make a small payment and he will take you for a tour. Its worth it.

Get up early. It will take two hours to get to the small town of La Union. From here you can take a bus to Lima or to Huaraz. I took the ride to Lima. The bus leaves at 10 a.m., and the route goes through Huallanca and Huanzala. Then it travels on a new road built by a Mining Company. Going through Pachapaqui, if you look across town on the side of the hill, you can see the Puya Raymondi. This is one of the xerophytes South American bromeliads, considered to have the biggest flower in the world.
The bus continues to Aquia, then to Chiquian. From here you get an excellent view of the west side of the Cordillera Huayhuash. The bus makes a stop for lunch and from there goes directly to Lima.

As I look back on the trail, I think of nicely landscaped plantations of wheat and potato fields. Along the Inca Road you get to see all sorts of plants and flowers. In some communities they grow a forest of Quenuales (polylepis spp.) so they can supply themselves with firewood. There are large herds of sheep. In places like Tambillo and Andahuaylas they weave ponchos. In some valleys you will see the Cara-caras and a variety of birds like ñandus and acacas. And of course, the sight of the mountains peaks in the Mid-Andes is very impressive. The Cordillera Raura and Huayhuash can be seen from many different places on the Inca road.
If you are looking for an offroad hike away from the ordinary trails, this would be a great opportunity for an adventurous nature-lover or an experienced hiker to enjoy the CAMINO REAL DEL INCA. Traveling on this imperial road will be an enduring memory.
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