While hiking the Inca Trail is undoubtedly a great experience for the breathtaking landscapes that you encounter, one of the best parts about the trail is stopping at four other Inca ruins before Machu Picchu. By doing this, and walking around all of them, you notice simple things that the Incas were able to create in order to make their everyday lives easier. Take the staircase shown above for example. A simple staircase like this took careful planning because it was built jutting straight out of the stone wall and would have been done during the process of building the actual wall. This staircase in particular made it easier for the Inca people to climb from a little garden area back to the main portion of their town.
Or, when the level they needed to climb to isn’t high enough for a staircase but is still a little tricky just to step up to, they would carve hand-holds into the stones above to use to help balance and pull themselves up. These hand-holds were carved with nothing more than another rock of harder composition and provide a simple solution to an everyday problem.
Another simple solution using carved holes in the stone is shown above. Say the weather was extremely windy one day, or rain was pouring in through their stone windows. It would be convenient to have the ability to close a window wouldn’t it? The Incas were able to do so using wooden shutters that they built and attached to the outside of their windows with wooden pegs that fit perfectly into the above hole in the stone. Genius, right?
Lastly, what’s more important than a constant access to a water source? The above pieces of stone are found left unfinished on a terrace in Machu Picchu, but would normally be placed far into the mountains at the front of a mountain spring, and lead all the way back to the town, city, or agricultural terraces that needed access to water. Using these, water would constantly flow from the spring along the canal carved into the stones, and the Incas wouldn’t have to worry about access to water again.
This water canal is overgrown with grass today, but in the day of the Incas would have provided this ruin found along the Inca Trail a constant flow of water leading down the side of their town to the agricultural terraces below. They would build these canals for as far as necessary, but of course they always built their homes near a reliable water supply.
For me, seeing these solutions to everyday problems that the ancient Incas were able to develop was one of the best parts of hiking the Inca Trail. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did!