The three of us ride our motorcycles into Cusco with no intentions of hanging around other than getting some super desperately needed laundry clean. I will return to Cusco later. We are so close to one of the main reasons for being in this part of the world. Machu Picchu !!!!
We all have been trying to figure out for ages how to RIDE the motorcycles to Machu. Kevin and I have been looking for information online ever since we were in Colombia! Barton and Dean had the same results, the info they were getting wasn’t totally clear. So, is it possible or not? The road that goes there is cut off on google maps as well. We chose to ride to Ollantaytambo as we heard there is an American man who lives there and might give us more clear instructions.
Ollantaytambo is only 67 km from Cusco, so we took our time getting here. And what a beautiful ride it is! Once we were here we met the guy and made a plan to stay the night in this gorgeous little town. We want to leave the majority of our belongings behind and only carry a backpack of gear we will need for the next 2 or 3 days to Machu and back.
Barton travels on a small 8 litre fuel tank so Dean shares some of his gas and we take off after a nice big breakfast! (Recommendation: Hearts Cafe, Ollantaytambo)
About half of the journey is on paved roads and the other half is dirt. Even though the weather was great in “tambo”, it is cold and misty riding over the mountain pass. If you’re into switchbacks, you’ll get your fill of them here on this road.
I caught the last glimpse of a local woman in her traditional clothes walking up to her house. I really love this about Peru. So much of the world, no matter what corner you are in, have given in to western dress. These clothes are natural, colorful and all hand made.
It was raining enough that I kept the camera tucked away. Once we got to the lower elevation again, the rain stopped and the roads turned to dirt..
We wanted to keep the bikes light because we heard that the dirt roads would be quite tough. So far they haven’t been, but we thought it smart to get the fuel in the one and only little place to get it (Santa Rosa) just to be sure we can get out again.
And look! You can choose between 84 and 90 Octane, way out here!! 😉
It’s always a pleasure to fill the tanks from a bucket.. ha!
Just after Santa Rosa, you take a left turn. There was a small sign, however the locals were funny in the way they all knew to point us in the right direction without even asking.
Hmm, I can take the road through the water, or catch on to the little bridge. I vote bridge, and surprisingly so did the guys. I would have bet money they’d prefer the harder way just to be boys!
The road just gets more and more amazing. I’m honestly not a fan of riding through the small cold mountain streams, they are so slippery. But the road itself is my favorite type of riding. Hard pack dirt with little gravel and a bit of beauty and challenge (especially when you have to pass somebody) to come with it.
We’ve now come to Santa Teresa. There were two suggestions of how to handle the trip from here. One is to find a hostel to sleep and park the bike for the night, then take a little bus with lots of backpackers to Hidroelectrica where you can either catch the train or hike the train tracks. (This is the most common way for backpackers as the train from Cusco is around $400 USD if I remember, and the same train from Ollantaytambo is around $200 USD). Option two, is RIDE the bike to Hidroelectrica, and walk the train tracks (FREE!) so we can spend the night in Agua Calientes. You have to come through Agua to visit the ruins, there is no other way. And if we stay the night here, we can get an early start for Machu Picchu in the morning. That’s what we picked. The first option would be more secure parking for the bikes, but we’ve stripped most of our belongings and the rest comes with us in the backpacks. Other than the bikes themselves which we have triple locked together, there is nothing else to steal. So we chose option #2.
Which way do we go now? Always a guess when we arrive a new town.
Santa Teresa, Peru
Let me guess, we are getting close to Hidroelectrica??
Wow, I’ve never seen such forceful water pouring out of a hole in the rock like that before.
At the end of the road is the office and where you can board the train. This is not an official way of doing it, but we asked the guards here if we could leave our bikes tucked behind the shed for a couple days. They had no issue with it. We’ve since given these instructions to other riders who also stored the bikes here and reported back with no dramas. If they do happen to say no in the future, just go back and park at Santa Teresa as it’s not far by taxi or bus and keep it safely parked there instead.
Now we change clothes and hike along the railroad tracks to Agua Calientes. There is a train to take us there, but the last one has already gone for the day. And we’d really rather walk anyway, since it’s so beautiful here.
We hiked along the railroad tracks for 1 1/2 hours, before arriving Agua Calientes in the dark. Once settled into a not-so-nice hostel in this very expensive only-for-tourists town, we went for a much deserved dinner. I couldn’t help but to take a photo of the menu. Translation is always funny and this one did not disappoint. “Trout to the Male Thing” ?????
I didn’t go for Trout to the Male Thing.. I was a bit concerned what I’d get! ;-/
Now, on to the main attraction, Machu Picchu. To continue keeping it cheap, we chose to walk up to the entrance (about 45 minutes straight up) or you can pay 45 Soles (about $17 USD) for the bus. I thought I’d rather hike, but it was a tough one! However, check out the reward once arriving!!!!!
It is believed that Machu Picchu was built by the Inca Ruler, Pachacuti, as a royal retreat and religious sanctuary in 1460-70. They believe that because of the remote location, in high yet nearly impassable terrain above the Urubamba River, to be a place with ensured protection. The Incas were a regimented society. The scholars have their theories about Machu Picchu but little is known due to no written language ever being developed. Archaeologists are still studying the site today.
I wandered around alone for a while and met a man, Edwin. He keeps watch and his job to help rescue people, particularly when they fall off a cliff. He tells me it happens more often than he’d like, particularly on the hike up to Wayna Picchu.
Anyway, I didn’t pay the big bucks for a guide. The entrance to Machu is 128 Peruvian Soles, which is around $50 USD! I’m going to dob myself in here, but when I spend a lot on entrance like that, I get a bit sneaky when I want to hear a little history and I either stop or walk very slowly past the English speaking guides to other tour groups. (Not all the time, just occasionally.. promise!) I was actually doing exactly that when Edwin introduced himself.. doh!
Then he just started talking a bit about the room we were in.
There is a small stone pool that was roped off, and he explained to me that this is how they did astronomy here. They read the stars in the calm pool of water at night like a mirror.
Edwin sort of adopted me from here on (as much as his job would allow). While chatting and looking down the mountain I can see the blue train and the track we walked last night to get here. I had no idea at the time I was right below the ruins.
He took me into a tomb that was roped off and explained to me what they believe to be the history. There is so much that is not understood at Machu Picchu. How much should I worry about following a strange man into a tomb at Machu Picchu? I got along really well with him and gut instinct said he’s safe. Until… he pulled out a snake! Don’t take that the wrong way. 😉 He saw a snake scurry off into a crack in the wall and he grabbed the tale and pulled it back out.
He gave it to me and let me hold it. I like snakes and this one is gorgeous and so friendly!
He/she (how can you tell??) wrapped itself around my wrist while Edwin kept telling me stories. We walked out of the tomb and went to another little room where he explains where they do rituals and prayers.
Peruvians as well as Bolivians are really into their coca leaves and Edwin had a stash on him. (A reminder, they chew them and leave them in their mouths for energy).
Anyway Edwin gives me time to make my own silent prayer and offering, all the while, my snake friend is content on my wrist.
I will never remember the Quecha words he had me repeat (so I hope they meant good things) and I offered my 3 coca leaves (past, present and future).
Back out on the main path and he shows me a resident Chinchilla. Cool! I’ve never seen a Chinchilla in my life! It’s up a bit too high to pet, but it sure looks soft. Chinchillas are on the endangered list in the wild because they’ve been hunted to near extinction for their fur.
Edwin is great, he is showing me so many places I don’t see any other tourists go.. how lucky is that! There are many busloads of tourists here too!
These stairs take you to more of the famous agricultural terraces.
And this is a scary entrance to another tomb. We didn’t go in this one.
Next up is a quartz wall.. Full of rose quartz. Edwin suggests I put my hands on the wall, feel the energy and make another wish. My little snake friend is still wrapped around my wrist. I love this guy, I wish I could keep him! (I should clarity it’s the snake I’m talking about.. 😉
Edwin was fine with the snake, and even though he appears completely content, I’m not sure how you would know if a snake doesn’t want to ride around anymore! So I asked Edwin to walk me back to where we found it. We did and he went slithering into the crack he started before we pulled him out earlier. Thanks little guy, it’s been fun having you around today.. 😉
I also said goodbye to Edwin. He has been so kind and said there was no hurry to go, but he is paid to be there to help people and he’s spending all his time with me. I think it was really special to meet him here today and I loved that I got a personal tour and learned so much! I’m quite tired though and ready to climb back up the hill and just “sit” amongst the ruins alone. Thanks again Edwin!!
Not long after I left Edwin, a mystic fog rolled in…
Shortly after the fog, a proper rain rolled in. Which was fantastic! I didn’t take photos during the 30 minute rain, I just hung out under a rock and loved it. But what was fantastic is the majority of the tourists up and left! For real? I wasn’t about to leave due to a little water, but they did. Then I nearly had the place to myself.
Once the rain finished it was sunny skies again. What fickle weather they have here! But the tourists never came back. This in itself made my experience at Machu even better.. So quiet and serene.
I’m just completely mesmerized by my surroundings and the resident llamas wander by. Edwin had explained to me they keep 7 llamas on the property. They are natural lawn mowers most importantly, but it also gives us tourists a closer look at these gorgeous animals.
The little baby gave me quite a flirty face, and I couldn’t help to take a photo. I spent a fair amount of time with this little guy!
His parents/family are always nearby.
Up on the hill I sat and pondered and sat and pondered. I really didn’t want to move. I normally don’t enjoy sitting still for very long, I get bored quite easy. But not here, I was completely content to look at everything from my little perch.
With the sun setting, one last view before taking the same trail back down to Agua. I’ve really connected with this place. I don’t want to leave. I honestly feel like I just want to live here forever. If I ever have a recommendation of “must sees” in the world, this is it in A BIG WAY… 😉
After hiking back down the same trail to Agua for the night, I took the early train (6 AM) back to Hidroelectrica alone. I appreciate so much being able to ride with Barton and Dean from Potosi Bolivia to here. I really needed to not be alone on the motorcycle. For whatever reason after what happened to Kevin I was fearful to ride solo again, at least for now.
So my day being nearly alone in Machu, I am ready to stay that way. The boys are on a fast b-line to get north to Colombia and my goal is to stay around Cusco for a month or two to take a proper rest from the world, the bike, and the recent dramas to hopefully catch up on the blog.
Agua Calientes, Peru
I really enjoyed the short train ride and was well worth the $12 USD.
I met the same guards at the shack and they gave me my helmet and boots. I geared up and was on my way back to Ollantaytambo in no time. I have decided I would like to stay in “tambo” for an extra day or two. I’ve got plenty of time now, and I got a good feel of the place when we were here earlier. There are lots of amazing ruins to climb around on too.
Love this road!!
My favorite, the fast cold water crossing. Will I fall this morning!? No!!! I stayed dry this time, no worries…!!
Much better weather on the pass today.
Peruvian highland life..
And back in Ollantaytambo for lunch and a wander.. Check out these walls in town.. I’m looking forward to calling it home for a couple days.
I’m glad to have the time to stop and hang out here for a bit. It’s been a super great trip to Machu Picchu. A life-long dream, more than worth waiting for!!