Chaskis (Chasquis) were the famous Inca messengers, highly athletic runners who were capable of running great distances along the Inca’s extensive network of roads called the Qhapaq Ñam – the royal roads.
These Inca trails that extended from Colombia to Chile and Argentina, covering many thousands of kilometres and criss-crossing the Andes, had a network of posts (tambos) where rested Chaskis would wait to relay messages or packages.
Chaskis carried Khipus (Quipus) to record the messages and pututu shell trumpets to announce their arrival.
Distances as great as Cusco to Quito could be spanned in only a week, beating modern Peru and Ecuador’s mail systems.
Despite the destruction of the Inca civilisation at the hands of the Spanish centuries ago, one Chaski still exists.
Felipe Varela Travesí, otherwise known as “El Chaski” is undertaking the greatest hike there is.
His plan is to walk the 7,000km of Qhapaq Ñam that runs for Colombia, through Ecuador, Inca heartland Peru, Bolivia, Argentina finishing in Chile.
Felipe hopes to support a variety of causes during his walk. So far these have included;
- recognition by the countries visited of their shared cultures – for peace and union
- also for recognition of their multitude of distinct cultures and traditions currently being forgotten
- to collect information on as many varieties of potato as can be found (Peru alone has more than 3000) in this the international Year of the Potato
- to bring to light the plight of the victims of armed conflict (see video below)
and probably many more during his 9 months on foot.