Cusco

Cusco in Peru is apparently the longest inhabited city in South-America. One day it was the capital of the Incas, today you could say it’s the capital of the Gringo’s. Many, many tourists around and Cusco has made sure it provides all that a Gringo might need: massages, cafes, Irish pubs, artesanias at every price and quality, tours, tours and more tours…

We came to Cusco hoping to find an agency that would do the trekking to Choquequirao with us. This site is said to be the small Machu Picchu, only partly uncovered and beautifully situated in the jungle. Upon arriving however we noticed that the willingness of the agencies to go there was very low. Excuses were the collapsed bridge, terrorism in the surroundings, not enough interested people, etc. Disappointed we forgot about the site and focused on the main reason we were here: Machu Picchu!

Getting to Machu Picchu can be very easy, if you don’t look at the price you have to pay for it. Taking the train both ways alone will set you back at least close to 100 euros, for a 3 hours journey each way. You can also hike there, along the Salkantay trail, for example. In group this will cost you about 200 euros, for 4 to 5 days. Not bad, but the idea of walking in line with a bunch of other Gringo’s wasn’t what we were looking for. Nor did we have the right gear to do trekking on our own. Then there’s the cheap way: public transport to the first train stop beyond Machu Picchu Village (Hydroelectrica) and walk along the rails to Machu Picchu Village (Aguas Calientes). Takes you a full day: 8 hours public transport (including a ride along the Death Road of Peru (personal opinion)), 3 hours walking. We first thought about doing this on our own, but found out there are agencies that offer this way of getting there as a tour, including accommodation and tickets to Machu Picchu itself. We decided to do the tour: a little more comfort since you don’t have to do everything yourself. After convincing the right people we are still students, we now have an ISIC-card and got the entrance ticket for half the price (20 USD).

The train we didn’t take 🙂

Being it a budget tour (125 euros), we knew we had to be prepared for hick-ups and minimal organization. Thus, we were pleasantly surprised when we were handed a matrimonial room with private bedroom (we did ask for it in writing), but were less pleasantly surprised when it turned out the guide forgot to buy our tickets for the Machu Picchu mountain (although also in writing). The guide had no intention of fixing this problem, so we bargained and got the train ticket from Aguas Calientes to the last stop paid for, so we didn’t have to walk the three hours back along the rails (we also got the entrance ticket for the mountain paid back off course).

Anyways, Machu Picchu was great and definitely deserves the credit it receives! We made sure we were at the bridge in Aguas Calientes at opening time: 5 am. A grueling walk of about an hour later we made it to the gates of the Inca site. However, as opposed to the morning stories, we weren’t alone, about 5 buses already dropped their load at the entrance, so there was already about 100 people waiting in line. Still not too many if you consider the thousands of visitors visiting the site every day however.  If you can spare the 9 USD for the bus up hill, I would just take it…

In the tour we had a 2-hour guided visit included, but 2 hours really doesn’t cover much. Afterwards we walked around, with in our hands the bible of information about Machu Picchu: the book written by the discoverer of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham. Amazing how the man saw things more than 100 years ago.

THE stone with no less than 32 (!) corners

On a sidenote, we noticed that the average age  of our co-travellers suddenly had risen about 30 years and we still haven’t figured out how the Japonese manage to suddenly show up with hundreds on one site, while they are nowhere to be seen outside of Cusco…

We walked up to the Sun Gate and saw clouds coming in, covering the entire site. Not much later it was pouring rain and we were very happy we weren’t climbing the Machu Picchu Mountain at that moment. The rain soon got less severe and we were able to explore the rest of the complex without problems. Our book was the perfect guide, and very cheap.

Ten hours later the site was about to close and we took a bus down to Machu Picchu Pueblo. We splurged and had an amazing diner at “Indio Feliz”, a French restaurant with a very special taste for decoration…

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Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Cusco

  1. Wonderful post and your photos are so much better than mine when I was just there. Indio Feliz is an awesome restaurant isn’t it ? So happy that you found it as it had been a hotel recommendation to us. Look forward to seeing more of your Peru Posts.

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