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….

… 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.  😉

8 Responses to Day 176 – Cusco, PE to Aguas Calientes, PE

  1. Arlene says:

    Lenny, thank GOD we spoke tonight before I read your blog entries because I would of gone nuts not knowing if you were really okay. Lenny……..what adventures you had and you are truly very, very lucky. I still cannot believe where you took the bike and how you did it all. Just looking over the edges of the roads makes me sick. Please tone down the adventureous side when water and mudslides are involved.

    The photos and stories where unreal and I am sure everyone will love it except for eating the guinea pig…..that was a bit much…… least it was cooked. I hate the idea of you eating raw meat.

    Time to call it a night for me………you sure are having the time of your life. Love ya, Mom

    • Lenny says:

      Sorry mom! Remember…if you’re reading the post, I’ve already made it OK! You only need to worry if you get a call from the search and rescue folks at SPOT…or I’ve been off the grid for a really, really long time… 🙂

      Yeah, the guinea pig was interesting…if not at all tasty…lol

      TTY again soon!

  2. lisa says:

    I feel so stupid bc I thought those other pics were Machu pichu!! Now I have to reshow my students! Can’t wait to show them the guinea pig pics today. Those landslide pics are crazy – you know me – i would have gone two feet on those trails and turned back! stay safe, lisa

    • Lenny says:

      That’s an easy mistake to make….up close it’s all the same stone! LOL

      Wait until you see the pics of Machu Picchu…they’ll be up soon!

  3. Jill says:

    Awesome post, the Urubamba looked amazing, did you think of paddling it, I’m sure people do!?!?! So cool to really see how it has carved right through the mountains! Looking forward to what’s next!
    Be safe!!

    • Lenny says:

      Hi Jilly! Yeah, the Urubamba is a crazy insane river during the rainy season (now). It’s liquid death if you tried to boat the length of it now, but in the dry season I think they do paddle it…

  4. Arlene says:

    Dad saw the photos this morning and I looked at them again, with my eyes opened more, and we both said the same thing. Thank GOD we spoke to you before we saw the blog. Last night it was around midnight and I was very tired and didn’t see the total impact of the pictures and saw more dangers this morning. Those curves and cliffs and rushing water!!!!!! You are right, as long as we see you doing the blog we should know you are safe.
    Lenny, I feel as if I am there with you…………and so do most of the people who read it.
    Be safe and be well. Love ya, Mom and Dad

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