Main Andean Road / Qhapag Ñan

Main Andean Road / Qhapag Ñan

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 1, 2009
Seasons Season: Spring

Historic overview

Qhapag Ñan /Main Andean Road
The Qhapag Ñan or Main Andean Road system was constructed with the purpose of connecting the main roads with several minor communication arteries, allowing at the same time, the political integration of the majority of the Andean people.

The Qhapag Ñan that goes from the southern Colombian sierra up to the Maule river in Chile, having Cuzco as their center, was useful to add in a direct away the imperial capital with the main regional and provincial capitals (Suyus), becoming the most important road in the whole Tawantinsuyu.

The translation of Qhapaq Ñan is "a big, powerful, magnificent road".

Ecuador: Culebrillas Route

Culebrillas Lagoon
This is one of the most interesting archeological routes because of its historical characteristics. During the trip you will find two stops: first named Cuchisiana 9 km from Achupallas, and the second Paredones, located approximately 20 km from Achupallas, to finally arrive in Ingapirca, one of the most important administrative centers of the Cañaris and Incas.

This is a high road because the majority of the stretch is within an area of perennel rain and Andean high lands, ecosystem that is located between 3200 and 4500 meters over sea level.

In this stretch of the Qhapag Ñan, the fortress of Kallama Pukara merges in Achupallas, passing by the Royal Tambo of Cuchishiana, to the administrative center of Paredones of Culebrillas. Here a central plaza or Kancha was build, with their respective rooms, quarters, administrative buildings for the imperial bureaucrats, the Quipucamayos, that kept the books of differents goods, such as; maize or llama meat, that were taxed and stored in the storage rooms.

The mythic lagoon of Culebrillas is located in the middle of this stretch, adored by the Cañaris as a site where their culture originated. In the gateway of this laggon about 3 km of length, stone remains small cushion of the Cañari-Inca temple have been located. It is also observed, the remains of a semi-submerged construction that includes steps to descend to the interior of the lagoon.

Hatun Cañar or Ingapirca, was an important political, administrative, ritual and military center that had an urban design in relation with astronomical crucial events to the programming and control of the agricultural production calendar for regional area.

Culebrillas: General Information of the Route

- Province: Cañar
- Archeological Site of Reference: Ingapirca
- Route Distance: 50 Km
- Road type: Path
- Physical Level: High
- Starting point: Achupallas
- Finish point: San José
- Climate: Cold
- Recommended time to visit: From June to September
- Principal atractions: Culebrillas Lagoon, archeological remains of Paredones and Ingapirca.

First Day

May 1, 2009: We travalled from Quito south on the Panamerican highway through the Avenue or the Volcanoes. Passing the Andean cities of Latacunga, Ambato and Riobamba we finalley reached the small village of Achupallas in the central Andes of Ecuador, approximatly at noon.

In Achupallas we prepared the stuff, local guides carried donkeys with all the gear of people, after that we started the hike. It was a warm weather at that time so i was using a T-shirt as you can see in the images, when accidentally I touched my right hand with leaves of netthe which caused me an skin irritation that lasted until that night. It's part of the adventure, isn't it? :-).

The warm weather didn't last for a lont time. Later it was rainy, foggy but after that we have a beautiful afternoon in the mountain with a fresh air and beautiful landscapes to enjoy.

We pitched our tents before to reached Tres Cruces Lake. Our guides prepared a delicious dinner and we went to sleep at 8 pm.

Second Day

Paredones at the sunset
May 2, 2009: Early in the morning we set off, reached the Tres Cruces Lake and arrive to the highest point of the route (about 4300 m of altitude) and have the first view of Culebrillas Lagoon.

We hiked down to the Culebrillas valley (a muddy trail) and pitched up camp at Paredones ruins.

I almost forgot to mention "Clavito", the doggie of the one of the local guides. Clavito knew the route very well and didn't care the mud, rain or cold.

Third Day

Ingapirca, Temple of the Sun
Finally the sun decided to join with us in the morning. We walked the muddy trail until the village of San José. In that place a bus was waiting for us for a visit the Ingapirca Complex. During this visit we were surprised with a short rain, I didn't care because I felt satisfied with all the beautiful places I'd known.

After the visit, we had a delicious meal that the guides had hired for us and we returned to Quito.


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