The “Cheap Way” to Machupicchu part 3

 

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” 

Anthony Bourdain

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Leaving Cusco airport, we come to the conclusion that there’s no need to rent a car in Peru.  The first reason being that there is public transportation everywhere, so there’s no real need for one. The majority of vehicles you see are taxis, buses, or collectivos. The second reason is a better one, and that is…… the traffic is crazy! Really crazy!…with seemingly no real rules of the road. New York taxi drivers have nothing on these guys. On our way out of town, our driver stops to get gas, and then we are on our way to Ollantaytambo. We pass through Poroy and some of the most beautiful farm land I’ve ever seen. It was still very early, but farmers were already out and working in their fields. In the distance, snow capped peaks gave a hint of what was to come.

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Along the way we passed under the Sky Lodge hotel. It is a collection of small glass enclosures high up on a mountainside. If you happen to get a room at this amazing hotel, the only way to get to your room is to climb several hundred feet straight up a rock wall. Needless to say, not everyone will want to stay there, especially if you are afraid of heights.

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Shortly after passing the Sky Lodge,  the road changed from smooth asphalt to cobblestone,  and that’s when we realized we’ve made it to Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo is a town and an Incan archaeological site in southern Peru, approximately 45 miles by road northwest of Cusco. With a population of around 700, it sits at an altitude of 9,160 ft above sea level in the province of Urubamba. At the time of the Incan Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered this region, and built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, it served as a stronghold for the leader of the Inca resistance. Located in what is called the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it is an important tourist attraction because of its Incan ruins and its location en route to one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail.

Although hiking the Inca Trail would have been nice, we were taking a much cheaper, but no less spectacular route to Aguas Calientes, and Machupicchu.

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(The Plaza De Armas, near the center of town, with the massive fortress ruins looming on the hillside to the right)

Our driver parked his car and lead us to the Kamma Guest house, and what would be our favorite place to stay of the whole trip. By this point we were exhausted, having been awake for 27 hours and traveled 3,400 miles. Excited as we were to finally be in Peru, we decided to get a little nap in before further exploration of this ancient town.

Two hours later, we are awake, and we need food! It’s a little after 1 pm, so we stroll down to the center of town, known as the Plaza de Armas. On the corner there is a small restaurant named Papas. We head on inside and up the stairs to the dining area. The owner/waiter greets us and we scan over the menu. We both settled on a chicken sandwich, which also came with a soup and drink for 15 soles, about $5 US.
I was not expecting to receive that much food for so little money. This meal would have easily cost 2 to 3 times as much at home.
And the food itself? Absolutely amazing!  The chicken sandwich consisted of a breast on toasted bread, with cheese and some kind of lettuce.  The soup was like chicken noodle soup but better. After one taste, I didn’t care what was in it. I finished it off like i was starving.

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After our meal, we headed down to the market near the entrance to the fortress ruins. We wander through, looking at booth after booth of brightly colored souvenirs, each one selling basically identical items. This time through we refrained from purchasing any, as we didn’t want to have to carry them all along our trip.
On a side note, if you are a tourist, when you step out into public here, someone is going to try to sell you something. Street vendors will spot you a mile away. Be prepared to say “No Gracias”… a lot!

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering through the town, up and down the cobblestone streets, and sitting in the plaza watching the locals go about their business. We watched the taxis and “motos” circling the square, looking for their next fare. Some are uniquely decorated and rather comical looking to attract riders.

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When sunset came around 5:30 pm, we picked up some snacks and the Peruvian version of Ramen noodles, which has real chicken pieces and veggies. We chose these rather than eating out to stick to our super small budget. These were so much better than what we have at home!

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With the evening came cooler temperatures, and the realization that our room had no heat or ac. Not that we needed it. An alpaca wool blanket spread out on the bed is more than enough to keep you warm.
Laying in bed that night, with the door to our very small balcony open, we could listen to water flowing down a channel that is cut into the floor of the alleyway just below our room. It took us almost no time at all to fall asleep, and we slept very well. After the super long day we had getting there, we deserved it. And as the coming days proved, we would need it.

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Click here for a video of the journey up to this point!

To be continued…

Karma

Karma…. The sum of a persons actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.

I may be skipping ahead a little in our story, but I thought I’d share this bit of it anyway.

This is a story about Karma. Whether you believe in Karma or not, I do, and saw firsthand in Peru how it can work.

After flying into Lima and then to Cusco, we took a taxi to a little town about 2 hours away called Ollantaytambo. This little town of only 700 people ended up being our favorite place to stay on our whole trip. We stayed here two different times during our trip..a total of 4 days. On the morning of the third day there we needed to get a ride to another town called Santa Teresa, and from there we would hike to Machupicchu. This was not as easy as we thought it might be, since Santa Teresa was a 4 hour drive away. In my best broken Spanish, I haggled and negotiated with several people to try to get a ride, but no one wanted to take us that far. After about 45 minutes of trying, a young man who we will call “Mario Andretti” (because of his impressive driving skills, and because I could never pronounce his name correctly)  came up to us and agreed to take us to Santa Teresa for 50 soles. That works out to be about $15 US. I know of no one who would drive that far for $15. We agreed and loaded our packs into the back of his car. It was an absolutely breathtaking ride through the Andes mountains. Along the way we tried to take as many pictures and videos as possible. I strongly suggest this route to anyone making the trip to Machupicchu.

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Our little ride to Santa Teresa

 

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After about 4 hours we made it to Santa Teresa and to our room, which was made like a treehouse. We unloaded our packs and I paid “Mario” for the ride, but I felt the cost for the ride was far too low, so I paid him double his asking price. 100 soles.  He smiled and stared at me in disbelief and looked as if he might cry, and in his best English, he asked if I was sure I wanted to pay him that much. I assured him I did and shook his hand, and he went on his way.
We checked into the Ecoquechua lodge and climbed the stairs to our room. Everything is a climb in Peru.  We unloaded our packs and decided to rest the rest of the day. We also discovered that somewhere along the way we had lost the lens cap to Sherries camera. It’s not a good thing to have a very expensive camera shoved down in a backpack with no lens cap, but we figured it was gone for good. Oh well. We went to bed and slept amazingly to the sounds of the jungle coming in through the open wall of our room.
The next morning we awoke to heavy rains and figured we would take it easy and stay in the room, but after a while though, I was bored and decided to throw on my rain gear and head into the main part of this tiny town and explore. As I was walking up the hill into town I notice someone in a car behind me blowing the horn, so I stop and turn around to see what I had done wrong. And there was “Mario”, smiling, with his hand out the window. He pulls up beside me and motions me to come to the window . Then he drops the lost lens cap in my hand. We both smiled with appreciation and I thanked him for returning it to us.  That my friends is Karma.

Be good to others and it will find it’s way back to you.

The “Cheap Way” to Machupicchu pt.1

You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”

 

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May 25th, 2010
I made a simple post on Facebook. It was a group of pictures, all of which were of the beautiful and magical Machupicchu.
That post only had one comment. It was my own. It read…”Machupicchu… I WILL go here one day.” It was at that point i set the goal. The goal of seeing that unbelievable wonder for myself, in person. I immediately started checking prices with travel agencies, and for hours I looked for one I could afford. Information on making the trek yourself was confusing, and I was discouraged. There was no way I could afford the trip at that point in time, and I was not confident I could pull it off without a travel agencies help.
I gave up and put that journey in the back of my mind for a later time….

Fast forward to May 10th, 2017, and I’m in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with just a backpack and my lovely girlfriend in the seat beside me. We are about to spend 11 days backpacking in a country we’ve never been to, on a budget that most people would laugh at. We’re taking “the back way” to Machupicchu.

Sitting in the terminal, staring out a giant pane of glass at a Delta 767, it finally hits me. We are going to Peru. We are going to Machupicchu. What the hell are we doing?! The many months of planning and stressing over every little detail has come to an end. Countless hours of reading and jotting down notes, searching for hotels and hostels, figuring out what tickets need to be bought and when to buy them, and being confused more than once… that’s all over. It’s time to put our plan in to motion.

Sitting in front of me is the backpack I bought a year earlier. It is stuffed with only what I had deemed necessary for backpacking in a foreign country for 11 days. Nothing else. By this point, this pack has been packed and unpacked, and repacked approx. 7,894 times, each time with the same gear. I lost count on how many times I dumped it all out on my bed and started over, repacking and checking things off my list. Again and again I repeated this process. The week leading up to our departure date, I did this every single day. Excessive i know, but I like to be prepared. My girlfriend has her own pack, stuffed with a similar amount of gear, and by this time, she has performed the same ritual as many times as I have.

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We arrived at the terminal about 3 hours too early. The airports fault, not ours. Earlier that day, we had checked the their website for any delays or other information. It told us that anyone on an international flight should arrive several hours early to get through all of the security procedures. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 5:38pm. We were dropped off at the terminal around 2. The extremely long time they claimed it would take to get through security actually took about 10 minutes. Needless to say, we had a lot of time to kill, and when you are as excited as we were, time seems to drag on forever. After spending more time in the gift shop than any human ever should, we headed to our gate to sit and wait. And wait. And wait some more. Those who know me personally know that I have a hard time sitting still and waiting patiently, so this seemed like the longest three hours of my life. Parked directly in front of us is the 767 that will be taking us to Lima, Peru, and dropping us off in the middle of the night.

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It is interesting to watch just how many people it takes to service a commercial airliner and get it ready for another long flight. In the back of my mind I am hoping these guys aren’t slacking on the job today. Then I start to look around at all the people who will be joining us on this flight and hope and pray that no one does anything stupid and gets this plane delayed. Too much time waiting makes the mind think too much.

A little bit after 5pm they announce that we would start boarding, so we grabbed our packs and got in line. We show our boarding passes and passports and head down the corridor to the plane where we are greeted by the smiling attendants. They point us in the right direction, and we take our seats. I must say that I was glad i’m not over 5’8″. In economy class, there is much to be desired in the legroom area! On Delta 767s, there are screens on the backs of the seats that display the flight path of the plane and your approximate location, altitude, speed, and outside air temps, as well as movies and tv shows. I’m not one to watch a lot of tv, so staring out the window would be my entertainment.

It is a 7.5 hour flight to Lima, and a 5 hour layover until our next flight to Cusco. From there, we will be hitching a ride to the small town of Ollantaytambo, which takes about two hours. By the time we get there, we will have been awake 27 hours. With that in mind, I tried to settle into my window seat and rest as much as possible.

And its at this point I should probably mention…This was my first time on a commercial flight.

To be continued…