Machu Picchu (small change of plans)
As I mentioned in an earlier post about Machu Picchu, I said I’d do the Salkantay trek, a 5 day trekking to Machu Picchu. However, I made a last minute change to that plan. A few days before I was supposed to do the hiking, I met some people on Couchsurfing (yes again), they told me about their own itinerary and plan to go to Machu Picchu without the use of any travel agency or trekking. Which means cheaper! Considering the weather conditions (it was/is raining season) and the price of the hiking tour, I decided to cancel the tour and join my new friends to Machu Picchu. Eventhough I said it’s cheaper, the main factor that made me change was that I’d rather go visit Machu Picchu for the adventure and companionship rather than just joining a tour with strangers.
Day 1 – Heading to Aguas Calientes via Santa Maria
We met up early in the morning around 6 to take a small collectivo bus towards Santa Maria. When I say small, I mean really small. Imagine one of those mini vans and then imagine 12 people in it including the driver, now imagine that for 4-5 hours through the crazy twist and turns on a mountain path. Adrenaline garanteed. Eventhough I managed to sleep for 2-3 hours, I still managed to see some of the lovely mountain views of the areas we passed by. That’s probably one of the reasons why I do like to move by bus eventhough they can be a pain in the ass. You get to see some of the most remote villages and views that you would otherwise miss if you travel by plane.After a 4-5 hour bumpy ride through the mountains we arrive in Santa Maria, from here we have to take a taxi for about an hour to the hydroelectric station near Aguas Calientes. Where we’ll walk to Aguas Calientes, the city at the foot of Machu Picchu. But let me tell you, this taxi ride was damn fun and also adrenaline filled. The earlier bus ride was on paved roads with clear markings and railings on the side, but this one doesnt. It runs along the side of mountains which hover over a huge, rather wild, river. The maximum suggested speed was like 20-30km/h but I swear our driver didn’t let the speed drop below 40. Crazy ass ride, considering the many bumps and blind corners. It didn’t exactly help when he was telling us about this accident where a car drove off one of the cliffs and killed like 6 people. But we survived! Once arrived at the hydro electric plant or whatever, we started our walk towards Aguas Calientes. It was a rather easy walk since we were just following the train tracks. But all in all we walked for about 3 hours or so, since we kept stopping to admire the river and the surroundings around us. A lot of “ooooh” and “aaaah” and the occasional “INKA”-spotting. So after 3 hours we reach Aguas Calientes and since there wasn’t much to do, we decided to turn in after dinner and a quick stroll to the river. And let me tell you, it was pretty scary when you stand next to the wild river in the dark while only hearing the loud roars of the waves breaking.
Day 2 – Machu Picchu and Santa Maria (hot springs)
There are several ways of getting up and to Machu Picchu, but as you might have guessed, all these easy ways of getting there have a price. Since I’m feeling pretty fit and motivated, I decided to walk up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Easier said than done when you have to wake up at 5 in the morning to walk up there without any breakfast. And to top if off, it was pouring down like crazy. One thing I don’t regret buying are my high boot hiking boots. It took us roughly 1 hour to hike up and meet up with the rest of our friends, since some of them took the bus. And thus the Machu Picchu experience started.It’s true what they say, Machu Picchu is just simply amazing, without knowing anything about the Inka culture or historical facts, the view alone is enough to stun you. Surrounded by mountains and high up in the mountains at 2430 meters you can’t help but wonder how the hell the people managed to build a prosperous city up here? We hired the services of a guide who explained us more things about the Inkas and it was well worth the money. It’s fascinating to hear how they used the sun and buildings to determine the different seasons for harvest and so on. Not to mention their ways of structural buildings. They had already had a sewer system and water guiding system which connected all the houses or at least a lot of them. I can’t really tell you the exact facts but if you do get the chance, go visit it and bring a guide. We were lucky that the rain kind of stopped when we got to the top and the longer we were up there, the more of the clouds started to disappear. Meaning we managed to get some clear photo’s during the raining season! Yay! I’ve met some people who were there just a few weeks ago and they got shit weather… all cloudy and rainy. Anyway, we walked around the main domain of Machu Picchu for a couple of hours and afterwards we visited the Machu Picchu montagna, which is much higher than the more famous Wayna Picchu. Actually, I was the only one who went up there, since the rest of my party were too tired from the walk and wanted to rest at the bottom. But all fine by me, I wanted to see the top and during the hike up there, I kept asking myself why…. The path up was rather steep and close to the edge at times. Forgot to mention I have vertigo, so yeah, there were times that I hesitated a bit more, but I stil managed to overcome the fear. The view was totally worth it. Ya know, like, TO-TA-LLY, ya know! Along the way, I came across a lot of different people, old, young, heck I even saw a dad who was carrying a toddler up to the top. The kid was smiling happily while the father was breaking a sweat trying to get down the steep steps. At the top I enjoyed the view for a few minutes and ate some Oreo cookies and quickly made my way down. Apparently it took me 1 hour an half to go up, so my friends were getting a bit worried and started to come up a bit to look for me. They only walked like 5 minutes though so myeah…. that was the end of the whole Machu Picchu experience, but not the end of the day. We decided that we would go to Santa Theresa for the night since its cheaper and closer to home AND it had hot springs!So it’s about 3-4 in the afternoon and just as we were descending from the MP mountain, the rain starts to come pouring down again and REALLY pouring down. But we had to go down and then walk along the rails again to get the taxi AGAIN, so we had no choice to conquer the rain. And so we did. Long story short, we walked 2 hours in the pouring rain and through several mudslides along the way to reach the taxi all soaked. Taxi took the same road and speed towards Santa Terasa, where we grabbed some food and afterwards headed to the hot springs to end a rather long day. And man, did these springs feel gooooooooooood. I have no idea what temperature the water was but there were 3 of them with slightly different temperature, all I know was the temperature was perfect! Oh also, by now it’s already dark and our taxi driver had to drive along the wild river, which has risen significantly due to the rain. There was one of part of the road which was a bit flooded and people were debating if it was safe to go through. But of course being in Peru, everything is possible! At one point I swear I could see the waves go higher than the car.
Day 3 – The return to Cusco
The next morning we woke up early again to get the taxe back to Santa Maria to catch a collectivo back to Cusco. We couldn’t catch a bus with enough free seats so after half an hour we split up and took different routes and ways back to Cusco. Once back, I meet up with the rest of the group and turns out they actually hitched a ride with a gas transport truck instead of a collectivo…. Anyhow, day 3, the return, wasn’t that special. In the end I’m really glad I didn’t do the tour and choose to go to MP with my new friends. By day 3 I was really tired and I kept asking myself, if I had to do this for 2 more days, would I be able to do it? I think everyone should visit Machu Picchu, just everything about it was awesome. Eventhough it was low season and it was raining, there were still a lot of tourists around. I can’t and don’t want to imagine it when it’s high season. *shrug*