The Road to Machu Picchu

The road from Cusco to Machu Picchu doesn’t exist. The closest town you can reach by driving is Santa Teresa. From there you have to either walk or take a taxi to the Hyrdro Electric Station where you can pay to ride the train or save your money and walk along the railroad tracks for a couple of hours to the town of Agua Calientes which is the town just below Machu Picchu. You could also pay hundreds of dollars and take the train from Cusco.

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I saw this in a store in Cusco. I’ve been thousands of feet higher than Machu Picchu so I think I’ll be fine. This seems like a total scam.

I left Cuscu by 8 AM and was at Santa Santa Teresa 4 hours later. The first part of the ride to Ollayatambo was great. Beautiful scenery everywhere I looked. The road drops down into a valley then slowly makes it way up to 13,000ft. The snowcapped peaks were clear even though the sky was gray.

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Once the road crossed to the other side of the mountain it was nothing but fog. In some spots I could only see a few feet in front of me. It was like that for at least an hour or more. The fog even affected the birds eyesight. A crow flew out right in front of me, didn’t even see me coming and all I saw were black feathers in the air and on my windscreen.

Further down the road I passed a van that was pulled over and I saw a man opening the gas tank. I figured they were probably out of fuel so stopped to check. They were out but they needed diesel which I didn’t have. The driver hopped on the back of my bike and I rode him to the town a few minutes away. Felt good to be able to help them out but my rear suspension was not ready for that guys weight. I rode really slowly on the turns.

The road had a dozen or more river crossing. These are paved but the river flows over the top of it making them slick. The pavement ends at the town of Santa Maria. From there it’s 15 miles on a dirt road that in some places is right along the edge of a steep cliff. It’s a narrow one lane road with small buses, taxis, and trucks all sharing it.

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Check out the video of the part of the ride

 

I pulled into Santa Teresa and looked around for a hostal where I could park my bike for the night. I asked around and the going rate was 10 soles. I parked at Yucamamma Hostal on the left as you enter town.

I grabbed just a few things that I’d need for the hike to Machu Picchu and got a cab to the HydroElectric Station. Since I was the only one and there were no mini buses the taxi was 20 soles (collectivos are 5 soles). The taxi ride was longer than I expected but with the young taxi driver listening to classic 80s rock it made the bumpy ride enjoyable. Peruvians like Cindy Lauper too.

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I was surprised to see so many other people hiking along the train tracks. I thought it was some sort of rare adventure. I followed the crowds along the tracks but soon it was just me out there. Occasionally a few people would pass going the other direction. The trail is pretty good in a lot of places but for some sections it’s only rock. The trail stays along river so it’s an easy hike as there’s no elevation gain. 2 hours into the hike I came walking around a corner and there I could see some of the ruins way up on the mountainside. From that far away it was amazing. I can’t wait to hike up there tomorrow.

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Don’t look down, don’t look down. (There’s a pedestrian bridge to the right for those afraid to cross on the train bridge)

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I forgot to put something down for perspective. This is almost as large as my hand.

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My Converse are falling apart.

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In the center of the photo you can see parts of Machu Picchu’s ruins.

It took me about 2 1/2 hours to get to Agua Calientes. Once in town I walked around until I found a cheap hostel. Way past the touristy part of town I found CusiBackpacker Hostel for 20 soles a night. Dorm, wifi, hot water.

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Agua Calientes is one of the most tourist oriented towns I’ve been to. They certainly know what tourists want these days. Wifi. Everywhere publicized they have free wifi, happy hour specials, and Mexican food. With a big day tomorrow I had a low key night at the hostel. I read a few historical articles on Machu Picchu to learn about the site as I don’t enjoy guided tours.

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I found a nice local dinner away from the touristy restaurants. 8 soles.

Back at the hostel the owners 5 year old son was dominating this game of CounterStrike. I was addicted to this game my freshman year of college. So bizarre to see a 5 year old Peruvian kid in a village with no road access playing it.

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Comments

  1. Amanda Robles says

    I love this post and these pictures. It looked like you were about to fall off the edge in some of the video! So exciting!!

  2. says

    Some of that video had me holding my breath. That road is crazy! I’m glad I got to experience it through your eyes somewhat though…what a rush!

  3. Kyle says

    Awesome blog posts. Thats a great drive to Santa Teresa eh? We took the same road… I had a little slip out in the rain on the way back down… still an amazing road!

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