Machu Picchu is not an easy place to get to.
If you’re coming from anywhere outside Peru, your best-case scenario is a flight into Lima, a flight from Lima to Cusco, a two-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo), then a twenty-minute bus to the top. You can “simplify” things by walking the Inca Trail starting anywhere from Cusco, which will cost you around $400 and five days of walking. This is all because, of course, the town of Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu is not accessible by car, and once you do get there, you have a pretty daunting climb to the site.
For us, getting to Machu Picchu meant driving to and leaving the van in Santa Teresa, taking a cab to the hydroelectric dam that serves as one of the train stops, and then walking in (about two and a half hours) along the tracks to Aguas Calientes. There, we stayed overnight in a hotel, left Milo there while we visited the site, and then did the trip in reverse, all the way back to Cusco. I found the drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (another stop on the train) to be much more rewarding–perhaps because so much less effort was involved.
Of course, I may be a little biased against the whole trek by now, since my last trip to Machu Picchu in January 2010 took a full week due to many misadventures. Heavy rains washed out the train, stranding my brother and I–along with some 2,000-odd tourists–in the small town of Aguas Calientes for five nights. We ended up getting airlifted out by helicopter. But that is another story altogether–yet another journey to Machu Picchu eclipsed by all the particulars.
This time around, we at least got in and out as planned. The moral of the story is that we don’t visit Machu Picchu during the rainy season! Also, always pack a deck of cards in your day bag…you never know when a day trip might turn into a week-long stay. And, of course, the old adage proves itself: it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
It is delightful to be back in Cusco. Camping Quinta Lala is a great site with great hosts who keep the place hospitable and clean. It’s a lovely walk down to the Plaza de Armas, where there always seems to be something going on. Another bonus is that it is right around the corner from Saqsaywaman, the city’s own formidable ruins.
In the campground we also got to meet up with a slew of other overlanders, including Camper Clan, Our Open Road, and Patagonia or Bust, just to name a few of the more online travelers. The last time I was here in Cusco, the city was a rainy, muddy mess. What a difference some sunshine makes! It is probably the most beautiful city we’ve visited since Guanajuato.
We plan to rest here for a few days before pushing on to Lake Titicaca, something my brother and I missed on our last trip because of the floods and our subsequent stranding at Machu Picchu. To close, here’s something we encountered on our drive last week: a mountain of dirt blocking the roadway. We were told that we would be allowed to pass in two-and-a-half hours, a relief for us, since we thought at first we’d have to go back all the way we’d come from.
The upside to this little delay was that I got some work done in the van, and Juan shared a beer with the truck driver behind us, who told us about a good spot to crash in the next town, Abancay.
Okay, and one photo of Milo meeting his first Peruvian hairless dog, of which there are many in Aguas Calientes.
More Peru photos at limpire.