No matter the means, the end result remains spectacularly breathtaking!!
Since the Nasca lines on the coast we have been immersed in the history of Ancient cultures and practices all in the build up to reach Machu Picchu. The past few days driving have been our trail to the ancients and the museums we have visited; our anthr-archeological preparation for Machu. It’s only 660km from Nasca on the coast to Cusco, the heart of the Old Inca empire where we planned our trip to Machu. This distance took us 15hrs of driving over 2 days over the most squiggly climbing passes over 4500m above sea level!
The first day out from Nasca had the outside temp gauge ranging from 31 degrees in the desert to 5 degrees and sleet/snow over the pass 4 hours later!
En route we passed a family of touring cyclists – mom, dad, 11 year old boy on his own bike, and young girl riding in tandem with the mom. They were going at about 12km/hr over a 40km long pass, the one with sleet……sorry, but this is child abuse! It would be tough without carrying any gear let alone fully loaded, little water and no real prospect of warm accommodation at the end!! Crazyness!
Cusco was a right royal shock to the system, apart from the GPS getting things completely fudged with the one-way streets. At one point we were ramping off pavements and driving down embankments in order to connect to other streets in an attempt to avoid the maze that is the road system!!
This enormous city, previously the capital of the Inca empire, lies at 3300m above sea level and spreads inelegantly deep into a natural valley and up along the embracing mountainsides. It’s jam packed with tourist vans, long distance tour busses, countless taxis in all sorts of shapes and sizes and pedestrians galore! The streets are higgledy-piggledy in urban planning; some roughly cobbled, others potholed, others with a large central groove designed to catch the unwitting cyclists and others simply end…..
I battled with the altitude the following day when we planned to tour around Cusco. Cath did a fabulous guiding job navigating us, by foot, around the sites but at 5pm I was feeling so nauseous and flat that she had to put me to bed for the night! I was so sort of breath too, that I could barely make it up the stairs to our hotel room!
We planned the site visits with the goal of making Machu Picchu the main end point. The meant that the following day in Cusco was spent viewing several local ruins a few kilometres away. The names of the places are hard to pronounce and remember eg Sacsayhuaman, but the history we gleaned from the books and local guides were fantastic to prepare us for the visit to the City in the Clouds.
Having spent a lot of money in train, bus, local guide and park entry tickets we were ready to head to Machu ( I mean a lot, 200 US$ per person!)