I remember arriving in Cuzco I was saw masses of houses all jumbled together on top of each other all forming a cone which our bus was going down, down to the centre. My 1st impressions were totally off…well the outside of the centre were pretty much run-down reminded me of Greenwich but once in the centre it was pretty, dinky, cobbled streets, alpaca shops galore and not forgetting millions of restaurants fighting for your attention!
So we finally made it to the land of the mighty land of the Machu Picchu. After purchasing our ticket in Cuzco tourism centre (hidden away on some off street near a stadium which Lonely Planet got wrong) we decided to leave a few days early and do our own 4day trek.
Trying to find out where to get a bus/collectivo in Peru (pretty much most of South America apart from Argentina) has many bus station specifically for different areas so it gets very confusing all you seem to hear are people shouting out destinations names….you do start to pick them up once accustomed to them lol because at 1st you can’t figure what they are saying. So we got a collective to the Sacred Valley (which comprises of Inca sites, as well as frenzied markets and high altitude Andean villages. Our 1st stop in the scared valley was sleepy Pisac (only an 1hr away from Cuzco), which lies 2,751m and about 33km away from Cuzco. The market takes over this very small town. Most of the stalls are very similar to their neighbours and filled with bright colours of embroidery. We only stayed there for the morning and we then made our way to Urubamba. With a population of 10,800 I thought there would be loads to see but it didn’t give me that excitement. We did visit the local market and had a bite to eat after finding a hostel to stay for the night. I remember seeing a poster of Shah Rukh Khan (an Indian Bollywood actor) in an Internet shop which was funny and weird! The next day we had made our way to Ollantaytambo with a smaller population of only 2,000 and far the best town I visited with the Scared Valley. You are hit strongly with a homely feel once you step off the bus. Cobbled, narrow streets, small shops, women and men all dressed in their traditional attire. We were lucky to arrive for the celebration of ‘3 Kings Day’. We had just arrived in time for the town’s procession that was comprised with a steel band, loads of locals dressed in fancy dress and a float which was walked through the streets towards the main church. I had witnessed several groups perform either a dance/role plays which were crazy from little children to grown ups dressed up in the most weirdest costumes and masks… a nurse, a ghoul/skeleton, birds, big frilly dresses, masked cowboys who were whipping each other so strongly around their ankles that you could see them move! After these performers the whole town had headed towards the bull ring. The hills were packed out with families and their picnics. Women selling plastic cups filled with jelly and topped up with whisked egg whites, homemade beer (which tasted liked like crap!), popcorn – all snacky food. We had an hour or so of bullfighting and rodeo entertainment before the drinking and eating started. I did venture out to the ruins that (which were free) were overlooking the town before it got dark we went back to one of may street parties. We had the mayor and his entourage getting pissed near the church alongside the steel band. The women were outdoing the men when it came to drinking. Closer to the market me and Michael were invited to a private party where we danced with the locals the night away (and they thought we were Brazilians lol). Amazing stay here and I would so come back here for a longer time – absolutely beautiful!
So the next stop was to get to Agua Caliente and boy was it a journey to remember! We were hit by 2 diff landslides! 1 being a water one that had blocked the path so our bus could not go through until it was sorted out and the other one was more and less very similar but instead it was a load of loose rocks falling ton our path. During this long arse journey the driver had over sold so I was very lucky to stand for 4/5odd hours, oh yes with no toilet on board. There was this little boy whose mum had held out a carrier bag so he could go for a piss….awww how nice! I did get a seat for only 30mins before we finally got to Hydroelectric. I didn’t realise why it was called ‘Hydroelectric’ until I got there and all was revealed! Alongside the bus journey we were driving against a very wild, strong, crazy river which has enough generated energy which is stored and used for the local towns. So there we were faced with a 2.5hr walk on rail tracks, as we got there late due to the landslides we were had to end up walking in pitch black darkness but thankfully we were prepared – headlights! There were quite a few other backpackers doing this route so there was a lot of ‘ola’ going around. We finally made it to Agua Caliente but late…10pm and it was very hard to find a hostel but we manage to. We had to get up at 5am so a few hours of kip before the big day was needed.
5.30am pissing down with rain waiting at the bus stop only to be told that we needed to purchase a bus ticket as this was not included in the main ticket! The 20min bus journey that was at a ridiculous price took us to the main entrance with a big notice sign saying ‘No food or drink to be entered’ but we later saw families having picnics which drove us mad because as you can imagine the prices were crazy for a meal or even a can of coke!
So 1st stop was Waynu Picchu…we had to walk quite a bit at a very high altitude with steep stone stairs (which were slippery due to the slight drizzle in the morning) this must have taken us at least an hour to do. Once at the top we were slightly unlucky as there was a lot of cloud that was covering up Machu Picchu but I did get to see through the clouds several times – the feeling?!?!? Madness, like I mentioned before when you see an image over and over again and then when you go and see it you can’t believe your there - it looked fake in weird way. I did a very medieval feel. Walked back down the stairs towards the cave which was a waste of time so please allow going there nothing spectacular at all just a waste of 2hours! So as we were heading out of Waynu Picchu there was another picchu which gave us a closer look of Machu Picchu worth the small climb. So there it was MP standing in its glory and it did look spectacular, very grand, very green and just ‘pinch me, pinch me, am I there yet’ feeling! There were quite a few people but I did not feel bombarded with loads of tourist which was a great feeling. We decided to walk down to Agua Caliente as the bus fare was a rip off – lets just say after the 3hour walk on the rail tracks combined with the walking from 7am till 3pm I think I should have taken the bus back down as my knees were killing me so bad that my legs were about to give way…on a brighter note finally made it to Agua Caliente starving like mad could not even speak to one another lol. Had a Mexican we did chill to have the meal even though time was not on our side as we were planning to walk back to the Hydroelectric place that evening.
We got to Hydroelectric for about 8pm and was told that we would be able to get a ride to Santa Teressa. We waited and waited till 10pm when we were later told the roads experienced another landslide so transport was more and less on standstill. Luckily this couple dropped us off just before the landslide. The night was very mild and the moon was incredibly bright it was just blissful but the route ahead of us was not. As Michael put his 1st foot on the rocks you could hear a few falling down to the river below. We made it through and were lucky to get to Santa Teressa where we got a cab like midnight to Santa Maria hoping to get a overnight bus back to Cuzco but nada, so thankfully there was a café that was still open (midnight/1am) and the lady helped us to look for a place to sleep. Next morning we were waiting for the bus to take us back to Cuzco. Amazing trip really thought it was gonna be too hyped up but surprisingly it is something that I am glad that I had done.