Cusco part 3 – Machu Picchu & Aguas Calientes

The journey continues…

Well to get to MP from Ollanta, I had read about taking several buses or taxi collectivos culminating with a 2 hour hike along the railroad tracks.  This was the cheap way to get there.  It would take a day to do this but we are ones where the journey is just as if not more than the destination.

Our hostel owner had to call ahead to a bus co. in Cusco to make sure there were 2 seats for us available on the bus as it departed from Cusco. As is so typical for us, of course there was some miscommunication when they thought we were just to be 1 person.  So someone, not us, actually had to stand for a short while.  Fortunately for them, after only about a 10 minute ride there was a rest top for bathroom/food, and they were put on another bus.

Now the road trip adventure began.  Talk about amazing, stunning scenery, changing landscapes, farms in almost untenable locations, going up and up and up with switchbacks, reaching the top, and then going down and down and down with switchbacks in a completely different climate zone, on I might add very well paved roads for the most part. I will say it again – absolutely stunning!!  But I couldn’t really take any photos since we were crammed in a rather low ceiling van. MERDE!!

The bus trip took almost 5 hours with another unplanned rest stop due to another bus having a flat tire. The contrast in the vegetation from the up do the down was stark, from one semi-arid, rocky, minimal large vegetation geography to a lush large vegetation tropical rainforest.  I saw once again poinsettia trees, something I had only once seen in Zimbabwe – who knew these classic xmas flower actually grew into small trees.  We also saw wild coffee bean bushes, lots of small banana plots interspersed with choclo corn – practicing companion planting.  We also saw lots of what I think was wild tobacco.

This journey was another one where we both wished we had our own means of transport so that we could have stopped gazillion times to take photos.  It was shocking to see so many people on the bus stuck with their faces in their mobile devices – I thought why the fuck are you on this trip?!?!? – see my rant on selfies!!

I never thought that I would have so much interest in the farming that we were witnessing in such extreme landscapes.  But I guess as very small scale farmers (I always feel weird saying I/we are farmers), both us commented independently that we wished we could meet and spend time with some local farmers to see how they do their farming.  This has actually been leading me to my next career path… I think… I hope….

The bus along with other gazillion buses and thus people dropped us off at a place called the Hidroelectrica – I guess some dam/electricity station.  From here we would hike along the railway line that the tourist trains use. It was supposed to be 2 hour hike.  Well more like 3 hours.  By this time, C5 was having a really difficult time getting enough oxygen so we had to stop frequently which I had to say drove me nuts.  The terrain was those railway track rocks they put down which are a pain to walk on. But just as much a pain is to walk on the tracks trying to step on each railway tie – just never the right distance apart for one’s usual stride or the distance between ties is never consistent so you have to keep changing the width of your stride.

Beginning of the hike… so we don’t look too bad…I took other photos during our hike but the lightening was just too dark.

We saw a few of these cafes, restaurants along the trail – just for the hikers I guess. Pretty neat looking and inviting but we just didn’t have the time to spare although having a cold one would have been awesome!!

There was an initial steep ascent of about 100 meters or so until you got to the tracks. I had a moment of horror thinking it was all going to be uphill but I also thought that was impossible, I would have read about this.  As you get to my age you wonder if you remember some things correctly so I was a bit anxious there.

By the time we got near to Aguas Calientes (AC) it was starting to get dark. AC is the community at the base of MP.  .  There was still another km to walk – which I didn’t know – after you left the train tracks in order to actually get to the community.  I was like what the fuck!!  And then I was going to have to find the place I booked in the dark.  It turns out the whole community is built on a relatively steep side of a mountain so every direction you walk you are either walking up or walking down.

There is a variety of accommodation and I did find a decent, cheap place but it was at a high point in the community so lots of walking up hill that night. We were both exhausted by this time, me being pretty chilled because of the sweaty layers I had been wearing. It had an amazing hot shower – plenty of it and with the best pressure I have experienced so far in Peru.  We both showered which helped us recuperate somewhat.  We were then like we need a beer just to chill.  But I also needed to buy the bus ticket to get up to MC – after this hike it was clear that C5 was not going to be able to do the 2000 meter steep uphill climb with his lungs.  Luckily after walking around up and down, I finally found the bus booth, got tickets and then headed to a small bar where I saw the beer prices which were reasonable – of course not in the area where all the tourists would be, a lot further downhill alas which would mean an uphill walk back to the hotel.  After a beer, we then needed food and ended up having the absolute worst food there for our one evening meal.  Finally bed and sleep – well a bit anyway. We had to get up at 5 in order to grap a quick the most basic of all continental breakies and then line up to catch a bus.

When the buses started filling up, it didn’t take long before we were on our way again up and up and up on switchbacks.  We occasionally would see the hikers heading up looking exhausted. By this time it was getting light so the views were impressive although I preferred the landscapes on the other side of the mountain range (what we had driven up the day before) because it was much more stark, and here the tropical bush wasn’t that biodiverse compared to what we had seen on the down portion of yesterday’s drive – obviously a slightly different climate zone.

Well talk about overrated.  Machu Picchu is a complete tourist trap.  The community of Aguas Calientes (which means hot waters – because the place has hot springs which I had forgotten about and which we could have enjoyed since we ended up having to wait around more than 5 hours for the train back to Cusco) only exists because of MP.  There were so many rules – no eating, no smoking, follow the one way signs – don’t you dare backtrack or leisurely roam around. Fortunately we did arrive early enough that the hordes of tourists weren’t that bad, only upon leaving did it start to get ridiculous.  We or I elected not to use a guide. In a way this might be have been nice to have but you could honestly just listen in on occasion as you passed a tour group and catch tidbits. My way of travel is usually to do some research after seeing a place in order to more fully understand what we saw.

The classic view…

 The classic view but with me in it!!

Sharp and pointy plant The river belowA llama’s but

I like to think I have some artistic talent and I tend to take unconventional photos.  I ike closeups, details,  diferent perspectives.  Enjoy…

That’s Ross in the distance taking a break

The temple rocks were quite different, smoothed over indicating its higher importance


Other perspectives…

Doorways & windows… the Inka were short… as are many here in Peru.


A mother and baby llama

Housing construction

Tupac Amaru, the last Inka emperor.  This name can be found in many places in Lima. The sports complex across the street from us is called by his name.  I didn’t know who he was until I googled it and read what wikipedia had to say.  Those bloody conquistadores!!

Now we come to Aguas Calientes…lots of stone sculpture art work – very impressive but I’m sure few tourists would ever see these since they are located in a part of town I would think few tourists walk

A cuy aka guinea pig

Corn goddess

Tupac Amaru (or other Inka god) and child

Tupac Amaru & machu picchu scale model

And the neat garbage cans

Decorative planters

Other art work

By the river through town

A very common site now that I have become aware of these.  There was actually a national seismic prep exercise end of May – not sure what happened.


My recommendation is to do the Inka trail – hike it, bike it, part drive it, stay in communities along the way.  The train follows a big chunk of it and you can see ruins all along the way for FREE!!

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