Day 176 – Cusco, PE to Aguas Calientes, PE

Day 176 – Cusco, PE to Aguas Calientes, PE       02/13/11      Mileage: 137

Motorcycle, train and an automobile…it would take me all three today to get to Aguas Calientes…the gateway to Machu Picchu. There are officially 2 ways to get to Machu Picchu, the Inca trail (which is closed due to heavy rain) and the train to Aguas Calientes. Now, I could have of course just gotten on the direct train from Cusco, but where’s the challenge or adventure in that? I had heard and read about a “back way” to Machu Picchu and that sounded like the more “fun” and interesting way. So I topped up the tank on the KLR and headed north out of Cusco. The weather was, well, not raining and that is to say it was great for this time of year in the mountains of Peru. The road was paved and the scenery was great as I passed Chinchero and descended into the Sacred Valley towards Urubamba.

Looking across the Sacred Valley at the snow capped peaks…

Looking down at the town of Urubamba…

Riding the Sacred Valley

Continuing up the valley past the town of Ollantaytambo, the road turned sharply up the mountain pass and soon I was back in the rain and fog.

The air turned cold, so cold I had to break out my winter riding gloves again…something I’ve done only a handful of times since Alaska. Once over the pass the road descended as sharply as it had climbed, plummeting over 10,000 feet into the valley below.

The road also turned to dirt, and more specifically mud in many spots so it was slow going much of the way to the turn off to Santa Teresa.

The road crossed the raging Urubamba River once more and began to climb up a steep canyon.

I had to cross a few fast moving streams, but only maybe 8-10 inches deep. But then I came to a fast moving stream where the water was over 2 feet deep. Fast moving water isn’t a problem if there’s not that much of it nor is 2 feet of water that’s relatively calm…but together it’s a significant obstacle. I got off the bike and walked across to scope it out…wet boots are much easier to deal with than a swamped motorcycle. There were some large rocks but I did find one line that seemed possible, so I decided to go for it.

Dosen’t look too bad in the pictures….  😉

I eased the KLR up to the edge of the water and then rolled on the throttle. The rear end bucked around as it searched for traction on the slippery stream bed, but was able to tractor through it and up onto the far bank. Several miles later I came upon a relatively fresh landslide. A few vehicles were stopped on either side of it and the drivers were evaluating the relative safety of crossing it. Some vehicles clearly crossed as there were a set of tracks.

I dismounted and walked it myself, and figured I could make it if I stick to the inside tire track. If I fell to the right when crossing, that wouldn’t be so bad, but if I fell to the left, me and the KLR would tumble into the ravine for sure! So after taking a good look, I was fairly confident I could stick the line, so I eased the bike up and onto the slide and with a few dabs with my right foot, I was across.

The last few miles into Santa Teresa were uneventful and I found secure parking for the bike at a small hostal.

See…you can ride your bike to Machu Picchu…    😉

That leg of the journey complete, next was to hike to the hydroelectric plant where there is a local train to Aquas Calientes. The problem was the pedestrian bridge across the Urubamba in Santa Teresa was washed out, and the next bridge across was a vehicle bridge a several kilometers away up a dirt road. I could walk it, but then I would miss the train and end up walking the entire way to Aguas Calientes. If I had more daylight, that’s what I would have done, but I didn’t want to hike in the dark. Given the few options, I hired a car to take me up the road to the hydroelectric station. The road in spots ran right next to the river, so close it seemed at times as if I was looking up at the river wave crests!

The river was right next too the road and it was swollen and angry…like a giant milkshake still in the blender.

See the BIG rock….

…..now you don’t…gone!!

If the river came up any higher, that road is a gonner for sure. I made it just in time to buy a one way ticket and hop on the train.

The “tourist” class car was really nice…much too nice for a smelly biker, but then again it better be for the 52 soles it cost. Locals only pay 2 soles…that is tourist robbery! The train left just before dark so I wasn’t able to enjoy the scenery along the way. We pulled into Aguas Calientes shortly after 8pm…so it took just over 11 hours to get here from Cusco.

In the end, was it worth all the effort and the cold, rain, mud, swollen streams and land slides…you bet.  😉

Day 174-175 – Cusco, PE

Day 174-175 – Cusco, PE       02/11-12/11       Mileage: 0

Typical morning of blog and email accompanied by the typical rainy weather. Around 11 the light rain stopped, the sun came out and it looked like it would last awhile, so I made a dash for archeological site of  Sacsayhuaman which is on a hill just outside of town. It’s a good walk up there…uphill all the way. I passed a young women also walking up and she started chatting with me as we were walking. It turns out Dayana was a guide on her way up to work but offered to give me a private tour. Can’t say no to that, right guys?  😉  Well, she is as knowledgeable as she is cute…oh, and she speaks 4 languages.

Me and a few alpaca’s. I’m glad they don’t know I ate one of their cousins the other day!

The Inca archeological site of Sacsayhuaman

The Inca’s revered the puma…do you see the stones placed in the shape of a puma’s paw?

The view of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman….

She also took me to tour the nearby ruins at Qenqo which were modest in size but interesting nonetheless.

I asked if she would like to join me for lunch in town so we went to a nice place close to the plaza that serves typical local food. I said I have been meaning to try cuy and she said it was really good at this place. So, what is cuy you ask…well…it’s whole fried guinea pig.

The aftermath…

Oh, and what did she get…chicken! Lol. Well, I can tell you now with certainty that guinea pig does not taste like chicken. What it does taste like I’m not sure, but it’s not good. So, with that checked off the trip to-do list, I said thank you and goodbye to Dayana and went back to my room for a shower and to do some homework on Machu Picchu. At night I went to a nice tapas bar that I had scoped out the day before. The food was as good as the wine and it was a bit expensive….but worth every centavo…

More posts coming soon….

Hi All,

I’m back in Cusco from Machu Picchu and it was unbelievable! More posts coming soon….

-Lenny