Thursday, October 13, 2011

Machu Picchu, the back way

More Stella, more stories. I'm writing this from the safety and comfort of Mendoza, Argentina; and if I had written about our time in Bolivia you would understand the "safety and comfort" part. My bad, those will be along shortly! Anyway we got to Cusco after two wonderful days, and all of the snow-capped mountains and alapaca herds in the world had nothing on what happened next. If you're sensitive to cuteness, please avert your eyes. Here we go!


CUTENESS OVERLOAD!!!!  If I had known this was all it took, we could have pocketed the 40K and gone to the Abilene Free Fair. Live and learn.
Welcome to Cusco! 

We arrived in Cusco late in the day, and found a decent place to crash. The next day we were out for a walk in the square, and happened upon two worn-down looking motorcycle travelers - our friends Andy and Cass rode right past us as we walked. We guided them to the "Grand Hotel Machu Picchu" and they got settled in. by then it was 2:30, so we headed to the Irish Pub and started drinking. We found out about an Indian restaurant, so we headed straight there from the pub. Andy and Cass decided to take on the spicy curry challenge, and after we had all eaten our fill we walked around town for a while.
Us, Cusco, and a certificate for eating spicy Indian food in Peru
We did things that were very similar to that for the next few days, and then found out that we could save some money on getting to Machu Picchu if we rode our motorcycle 150 miles into the jungle. A very vague map of hiking trails confirmed the existence of a "road" of some description. Of course, to me, this sounded like a fabulous idea.

A bit of background - the whole MP (Machu Picchu from here on, b/c I'm cool. "b/c" means "because," btw. "btw" means "by the way") SO, the whole MP thing is a carefully orchestrated fleecing, from the outrageously expensive train tickets, all the way to the outrageously expensive bus tickets and entry tickets. Rumor has it that the British own the whole thing, and I believe that because I want to.

 BTW, Americans should get in free because everyone who saw it before Hiram Bingham thought it was a bunch of rocks on top of a mountain! It was of course, just that, but it took an American to explain how to exploit it properly. The cash has been rolling in ever since!

But I digress. We wanted to cheat the system and get in for bottom dollar, because, as Americans, that is our right everywhere in the world. Riding the British-owned train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, riding the British-owned busses to the site, and paying some British park guards (disguised as Peruvians, cheeky buggers!) would have run the average couple around $450. We figured that we could save around $300 by skipping the train from Cusco and riding the bike to a hydroelectric plant six hours out into the jungle and hiking along railroad tracks for the last 10 miles to MP. Obviously a rock solid plan.

After riding over a 14,000 foot pass and getting frozen and hailed on, we were only four hours from our goal! Due to Jill's frozen hands there are no pictures of this. It was terrible, and I felt quite stupid for suggesting it, and knew it would take more than a few lambs wearing hats to make up for this ego-driven logistical folly. Thankfully we went down hill for the next three hours and arrived in a tiny town an hour from the hydroelectric plant.

This, unfortunately, WAS the right way.
 It was quite basic, but it was getting dark, and it was as close as we could get on day one of my three day "shortcut." We heard that we could catch a train from the hydroelectric plant to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of MP - which would save us the ten mile hike. We arrived at the plant at 7:00AM sharp, as instructed, to find that all of the track-side shops were closing up. The train left at 6:40. This is how things work.

 With two local dogs by our sides, and an increasingly dissatisfied look on Jill's face, we started down the tracks like two muddy, trainless train jumpers. The hike was really nice, and despite not really feeling tops we had a good time and saw some things we wouldn't have otherwise.

Ancient Incan farming terraces nearly lost to the jungle, but structrally perfect - in the middle of NOWHERE.

Another photo of upper right portion of the above photo, showing the terraces continuing under the trees. A bit tingle-y to see when you think you're alone in the virgin jungle. Maybe someone, someday will find the train tracks we were walking on and think the same thing...
Around a corner in the tracks we found Machu Picchu. The sounds of the jungle combined with the lack of signs and fanfare made it feel more like a discovery than if we had first seen it coming around a corner on a tourist bus.

A see-through butterfly along the tracks
Along the way we saw beautiful birds, flowers, insects and more lost Incan ruins than I can count. Around 11 we walked into Aguas Calientes, and by noon we were at Machu Picchu.


  1. The eternal trade-off for the traveler: spend time or spend money. It's always one or the other. Or it's lambs with hats.

  2. It's just too bad that it's not time-traveling lambs with hats made of gold.