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Old 01-28-2013, 10:39 AM   #31
huzar OP
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Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Bellevue, WA
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Sunday, January 20, 2013 Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

We set out this morning at the crack of 10 for Santa Teresa. Unlike the previous day’s morning downpour, the weather was gorgeous. First thing we did was head out of town, expecting to find a gas station, as I had tapped my reserve coming in to town. No such luck. We found a place advertising they had gasoline, but no one was there to open it, and wouldn’t be there for a while. As we’re standing, talking to the local, we see Bryce (Ulyses) and Mike pull up. They had come in from Cusco that morning. After a brief chat, Hewby and I decided to turn around to find gas before Ollantaytambo, and Bryce and Mike headed to Santa Teresa.

We had to backtrack 9 miles, but got filled up and headed towards our goal once more. Once we got past Ollantaytambo, the road got very pretty. It climbed in serpentines up out of the valley, its curves folding over themselves almost like one folds pasta when making it. There was little traffic, the sun was out, the pavement was good – it was glorious. Having started at about nine thousand feet, the road brought us to fourteen thousand feet in the span of maybe 20 miles, and they were some of the best miles I have ever ridden.

Old terraces climb up the steep hillsides:

IMG_2526 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Twisties galore:

IMG_2530 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Whoever laid out this road was a genius:

IMG_2531 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The pass at the top was a sharp demarcation line. On the other side, the road fell back down in sharp switchbacks, but the weather became unpleasant. Thick fog turned to drizzle, which turned to rain. The surface was not as good. The cliffs on the side of the road were covered with moss, not cacti. The fog, drizzle and rain pestered me for almost 30 miles before I finally broke back out into sunshine. The road was now following a raging river. Finally, about 70 miles out from Ollantaytambo, we reached Santa Maria, which is the turn-off for Santa Teresa and the road to Machu Picchu. On a day with nice weather, those 70 miles have to be some of the most magnificent anywhere.

Turning off for Santa Teresa:

IMG_2535 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

We turned onto the dirt track to Santa Teresa. At times it was muddy and torn up, at others smooth and wide. It followed along the roaring Urubamba river, now flowing fast and furious due to the near-daily rains in the mountains. Slowly the road climbed higher up the cliff. Most of the traffic consisted of taxis or tourist mini busses. All in all, a nice road.

The Urubamba:

IMG_2536 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The road hugs the cliffs:

IMG_2538 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

More dirt:

IMG_2540 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Hewby doing a water crossing:

IMG_2545 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

IMG_2550 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

After about 14 miles of this, we found ourselves in Santa Teresa. There’s little to this town other than that it is the launching point for many coming to see the ruins. As we stopped and looked around for a place to store our bikes overnight (Hewby had decided not to ride to Hidroelectrica, but to take the train with me), we were spotted by Mike and Bryce, who had parked in the hostal across the street from where we were. We decided to join them. They had already secured their gear, and were about to head out, so they offered to pick up tickets for the train for us (which requires passports or other photo ID, so we gave them ours), so that it was one less thing for us to worry about. We hustled about, securing our gear, selecting what to bring with us, and when we were finished, we were directed to a waiting taxi that would take us to Hidroelectrica and the train station.

The guy driving the taxi obviously knew the road like the back of his hand. Exactly which line to take, exactly where to pull over if there was opposing traffic, or where to continue knowing that opposing traffic had a pullout. We got to the train about 30 minutes before departure, the taxi ride having cost us 10 soles per person. Mike and Bryce were there with our tickets and passports, and there was a multitude of vendors selling all sorts of things, so while I got our things from the guys, Hewby found someone who would make us some trucha frita. Not having eaten since breakfast, it was a tasty snack.

The train (the last one for the day) left Hidroelectrica a tad after 4:30. It climbs out of the valley in sharp switchbacks, reversing direction at each one. The views become more and more impressive. The Urubamba River flowed past one side, red, swollen and very angry. The mountains, already towering over us, seemed to rise even higher. We could spot the occasional glimpse of distain ruins. Parallel to the train tracks ran a footpath, at times filled with tourists walking up or down enjoying the amazing scenery, at other times filled with gringo hippies and drum circles.

Hewby admires the views:

IMG_2551 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Sharkfin-like towers:

IMG_2552 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The pedestrian path to Aguas Calientes, for those wanting a 12-mile walk:

IMG_2555 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

More stunning scenery:

IMG_2558 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The Urubamba, a little angry:

IMG_2567 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Aguas Calientes does not make a good impression. The town is garish. Its only purpose in life is to suck as much money away from tourists on the way to Machu Picchu. There are signs and neons everywhere, like a very tiny Vegas. Hostels are expensive, and one has to be careful looking at some of the prices, as there’s a big difference between S50 and $50. We finally found a place with (weak) wifi and (nonexistent) hot water for 50 soles per double room. After getting settled in, Hewby and I headed for dinner, and then briefly chatted with Mike and Bryce to see what their plans were. Sounds like we’re all getting up very early to try and catch the 5:30am bus to the ruins, which open at 6am, so we turn in early for the night.

Hewby and Ulyses conferring:

IMG_2575 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Lots of pedestrian bridges criss-cross the town:

IMG_2576 by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

huzar screwed with this post 01-28-2013 at 10:47 AM
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