El Dorado – Machu Picchu

Beauty of Cuzco and a different view on the Incas’ masterpiece

Broken after 32 hours in bus in last 2 days we load the bicycles and look for hostel Estellita. We are not surprised to see here many other cyclists again, but we are a little tired to hear the same stories again and we go rather for a walk. First we are a little scared from the crowds of tourists but then we start to view the harmony and beauty of this place. There are many souvenir shops and sellers on the streets but nobody bothers us. Historical buildings, squares, streets and walls with perfectly fitted stones are clean, neat and nicely lit. We’ll see tomorrow during the day, but looks like Cuzco is one of the most beautiful cities we’ve visited.

After an early alarm we pack needed stuff to one backpack and put the rest of our things to a storage room. We study the instructions in kitchen and now we are only missing the tickets to the famous center of Inkas – Machu Picchu. In touristic center we are told that if we don’t have the train ticket, they cannot sell us the tickets and if we’ll go the by other means, we’ll need to buy them there … of course we don’t go by train – it costs 80USD! Or we would like to, but we prefer to save this amount of money and spend more time in buses.

We meet Maya (Guatemala – Atitlan, Nicaragua – Omitepe) in the center and together with her boyfriend and another girl friend we walk a little away from the center. Later we meet Lee and Heidi (Tumbaco) with another cyclist from UK and recommend them our hostel.

Walking back we make a final conclusion about our travelling: it’s not possible to be back home for Christmas – it would mean to hurry from one place to another without possibility to stay somewhere longer or get sick (we were really counting the days many times). After announcing this fact to our parents we are surprised abouy their reaction that they were awaiting it. Excited from all the time we have more we decide for a big step – to buy flight tickets which will bring us back home.

After 2 hours of searching for the best and cheapest option we finally pay over 1000EUR and buy the tickets for a wrong day!!! I don’t understand how retards like us could have traveled in whole Europe and now in America?! We are pissed off from our stupidity and the fact, that we try to save as much money as possible and we don’t double check if we’ll fly on 20th or 21st. First normal connection from Madrid is on 23rd evening and therefore after 19 months of traveling we’ll have 34 hours stop in the capital of Spain… can we ask for more? Yupiii!!! After a calm-down walk we upload last pictures and write home we’ll come back … 22nd of January 2013 just before midnight we’ll land in Budapest 🙂

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It’s morning and our second try to get to Machu Picchu (it was too late yesterday). Around 11am we get into to colectivo which takes us in one hour to Ollantaytambo where we have more options: a) comfortably and fast by train for 80USD; b) walk along the rails 30km or c) go around whole mountain, take 3 different buses and …

We go for C! After one hour waiting without any bus or other connection in our direction we decide to try hitchhiking. A big truck full of beer with nice driver and his daughter stops. We climb slowly to the pass (4300m) and even slower get down to the village (1200m). During this time 2 buses pass us and we are thinking if this was really a good idea. After long 4 hours we are there and we politely ask if we can contribute with some money and the driver asks for a full price of a bus … slow and the same price!

Another colectivo takes us on bad dirt road through the forest to another village Santa Tereza. We get there around 9pm and because to Aguas Calientes (town under Machu Picchu) we would get around midnight we decide to stay for the night here in a hotel. Now we are already thinking if this was the best option – if we’d choose the option B, we’d be already there.

Before 6am we sit in a taxi to the water power-plant. From there it is possible to take a train (locals 2sol, foreigners 18USD=50sol) or walk 2 hours along the rails… we go for a walk! Every train which passes us pisses us of because of the empty wagons and we try to think if there is another country in the world where you pay 2500% more if you are a foreigner. There are thousand of people in Aguas Calientes – most of them came here comfortably by train and they are going to take a bus up to the ruins… we buy the tickets – again more expensive for us – the intruders from other country who want to see something the Incas build thousand years ago. Our mood is really low and we walk alone one hour uphill where we get to a crowd on the parking lot. Another drop to the full glass of angryness: we have to pay 5sol for storing our backpack because it is too big to take it inside – couldn’t they just include it in the expensive ticket price (for toilet is another 1.5USD)???

And at the end – we are not allowed inside with food… we’ve walked here 3 hours and what I really want is to sit on some terrace with some nice view and eat my sandwich… no, no, no! We sit on the curb, eat our bread, around thousands of people passing by and we look at a wall. Now we enter, pass the tickets and passports to the lady and she asks us to open the passports on the page with photo… really??? Your only task is to open this small book and you need help? Jan answers: Open it yourself! … and we look at her with the accumulated angryness from the whole day.

We are inside … everywhere are crowds of people and on the first terrace we see a guy with a bag full of food – of course, nobody controls the small backpacks! We continue a little off from the main complex and my first smile is caused by a lama which doesn’t give a shit and I take a picture with my arm around her neck.

So how is Machu Picchu: definitely interesting because of the location on the top of a mountain and great view all around; nice grass on the terraces where they were growing plants for eating; “ruins” of an old town which are original maybe from 10% – there is not much of the nice stonework where it’s not possible to insert the tip of knife between the stones (you can see more walking around Cuzco), the rest of houses are just assembled from stones probably found around. It looks OK, but in reality these is a badly reconstructed image of how this masterpiece could have looked originally. 3 hours of walking around, small discussion with rude guards and we have enough of this El Dorado – yes, the golden city. Profits from Machu Picchu with so many visitors and those prices are much higher than value of the gold in the lost city (e.g. a night in a hotel next to the complex: 1800USD).

One hour walking downhill and another two along the rails back is enough time to get us to our usual good mood again and analyze why we were so negative. Machu Picchu isn’t for people who have a tight budget and want to save money! So either we shouldn’t have gone there and leave it for future when we’ll return with enough money to spend or just have a bigger budget for it and not be pissed off because of all other small expenses… if nothing else, we can learn from it for future.

The taxi driver wants double price for taking us back to Santa Tereza so I arrange a hitch with a Belgian couple who are here with a van they bought in Chile and now they are traveling around South America with their 8-months old daughter (they started in Asia when she was 2 :)). From Santa Tereza we take a colectivo and then next one to Cuzco. Another taxi and 23:45 we’re ringing a bell at the door of our hostel. Total expenses: 78USD per person plus lots of stress and bad mood … we saw a tour with a guide for 100USD – that would be definitely worth it!

We wake up to a cloudy morning and look at the photos from yesterday … OK, it’s not that small and ugly how we’ve remembered – actually it’s quite astonishing :D. This motivates us to look for another ruins (there are many near by Cuzco). Especially one looks really interesting – Moray. Agricultural experiment of Incas – round big holes with terraces with different soil brought from different climate regions and also the temperature difference between top and bottom of the hole can be up to 10°C.

We research for ticket prices and weather forecast. None of them is positive so we buy a bus ticket for a night hop to the lake Titikaka… in afternoon the weather gets better, we spend time with Lee and Heidi drinking beer in parks and in the evening we have show at the bus terminal when there is not enough place for our bicycles so they put us to another bus where we get semi-cama (half-bed seat) and we sleep well… 🙂

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