We got to beautiful historical Cuzco, with its narrow one way cobblestone streets. The riding through this city was a nightmare though, we were always finding ourselves on the wrong way
We stayed there for two days, just enough to walk around, see the city and take some pictures and for Chris to do some minor maintenance on his bike.
We decided not to take the tour to Machu Picchu, since it was $250 USD per person, but to ride the bikes there instead. We were told that the road is very bad (turned out not to be entirely true), so we decided to leave my bike in Cusco and to ride two up. This way we also didn't have to worry about putting two bikes in a safe place while going up to Machu Picchu. So the plan was to ride to Santa Teresa, leave the bikes there (the only place where we could leave the bikes in a safe place), then take a bus from there to the Hydroelectric Plant, and then take the train or walk for 12 km to Aguas Calientes.
The ride to Santa Teresa was amazing, twisty road going trough the mountains up to 4316 m altitude and then down to the jungle on the other side.
At some point it *turned into gravel road, pretty narrow and far up from the river
Some live landslides on the way, thank god on the other side of the river.
In Santa Teresa we left our bikes at a hostel and we took a minivan to Hydroelectrica. From there our friends Chris and Stephanie took the train up, and Vasile and I decided to walk the 12 km through the jungle to Aguas Calientes. Despite the many blisters I got on *my feet, I was very happy we did it, since the walk was very nice through the jungle, fresh drizzle and rain.
Got to Aguas Calientes and we were impressed: this little village was way more than we were expecting.
This is a cute little girl who started playing with Vasile. She went in 30 seconds from smiling at him to jumping on his lap and playing with him. I love Peruvian kids, they're so cute!
Once in Aguas Calientes we went right away to buy the tickets for Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu (also known as Wayna Picchu), and the guy tells us that there are no more tickets for the next day for Huayna Picchu (they only allow 400 people a day, in two groups). The only ones available were three days later. But he managed to find two more tickets for us eventually.
The tickets for Huayna Picchu were for 7 am. So as we had to hike to Machu Picchu first and we had to be there at 6 am, we decided to wake up at 4:30 am, so we have enough time to get ready and to do the 15-20 minutes walk to the gates, before they open at 5.
As I was so excited about it, in the middle of the night I woke up and I figured it should be late enough and was afraid that Vasile's alarm wouldn't ring, so I woke Vasile up and asked him what time it was. "5 to 4". Oh, good, we have another half hour. Fell asleep again and woke up again a little bit later. "What time is it?" "Oh, shoot, it's 5!!! Let's go, let's go!" You can imagine how we jumped out of beds and into our clothes, didn't even use the washroom
Outside we started to feel kind of weird: it was dead, just us on the streets. "Maybe no one is as crazy as us to wake up at 4:30 to do Macchu Picchu" "Impossible, out of the 2000 people who go up there daily, there must be at least some". Power walk to the gate in the peach dark, absolute silence and drizzle. Weird, no one on the road either. Did the time change maybe? Since we are on vacation, we never know what day of the week or what date is, or when the time changes, since we don't watch the news. We got to the gate - closed. Vasile : "Hold on a second" and he starts pressing the buttons of his fancy wrist watch. "Oh shoot, I looked at the wrong screen, I got the wrong time. It's only 2:25 am!" Beautiful! So we decided that we didn't want to stay in the rain for 2 hours, and we walked back to the hotel. My feet and blisters loved me for that.
So back to the hotel, try to sleep for another hour; wake up again, walk out....oh wait, I just had a deja-vu
I feel like I've done this before. Except when we got to the gate, is was open this time. So here we start hiking to Machu Picchu. Well, it's no easy hike, that's for sure. Very challenging, steep steps through the jungle (for my Vancouverite friends, more challenging than the Grouse Grind), and to top it off, it started pouring. The whole way we were thinking about Alin, Vasile's brother, who would have probably run up those stairs "Dude, I did it in 27 minutes!"
When we got up there, it was quite foggy, so I was about to give up on the Huayna Picchu hike, since I figured I wouldn't be able to see anything anyway and the idea of resting my feet a bit was very enticing, but Vasile was determined to hike it anyway, so I let myself convinced. And was I ever happy I did! Machu Picchu was spectacular, but Huayna Picchu is out of this world! The hike was even more steep, there were sections where I had to hold onto the rope on the side, and the trail was so narrow that did not allow for wrong steps. I think I just discovered in this trip that I have fear of heights, since I was getting dizzy if I was looking down. Here's some pictures to back up my words (in the meantime the fog cleared up).
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu
As the fog cleared up, when we went back to Ciudad Inca Machu Picchu; we spent a lot of time there just admiring the ingenious ruins and taking pictures. Even though it is so incredibly touristy and so busy, Machu Picchu will never be overrated. It just blew us away. The whole walk for 12 km and the one hour hike to Macchu Picchu and another hour to Huayna Picchu were so well worth it.
Macchu Pichu (Ciudad Inca) with Huayna Picchu in the back
The next day we walked back the 12 km to the Hydroelectrica, and then took a minivan back to Santa Teresa to pick up our bike.
As there were some hot springs nearby, we decided to go and camp there instead of going to a hotel. When we got there, all the locals advised us not to camp there, as it is the rainy season, and there are regular mudslides that cover the road, so we can get stuck there until the machine comes to fix it, which sometimes can take a whole day. As Chris and Stephanie had quite a bit of food with them and we had some snacks, we decided that we wouldn't mind if we got stuck there and we had those beautiful hot springs just for ourselves
After the wild ones in Guatemala, these were the best hot springs we have ever been to. Very clean and nice. And the next day in the morning we realized that they actually replace the water and clean the pools every day.
So after a couple of lazy hours in the hot springs we went to set up our tent and we noticed we had company. There was one local family camping right next to us. Very nice people: the next day they offered us cheese and coca mate, while the dad played their traditional flute and the little daughter offered us a tentative of a dance show. That was so cute. Then shake of hands and off we go back to Cuzco to pick up my bike.