Road to Machu Picchu

A quick shot of the GPS showing the winding route

The holy grail for most travellers to Peru are the infamous ruins of Machu Picchu. The hardened trekker schleps for 4 days through the Andes enduring freezing cold evenings and early morning wake-ups, the short-on-time tourist hops on a train in Cusco and is spat out in Machu 4 hours later, quasi enthusiasts trudge up the slopes of Machu from the nearby town of Aqua Calientes, the morning of their entry ticket ( a tough steep hike!)….. Some of us prefer to drive halfway around a continent on a bike );););)
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 desert road where the temperature was a wonderful 30 degrees celcius

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!

The high altitude plains where the temperature dropped to 4 degrees and about an hour later we were driving through light snow fall.

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!

Probably the windest road we have ever driven. Not how the landscape changed yet again….. and all of this in less than 600km

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!!

Cusco, the view from the Sacsayhuaman ruins

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…..

The main square in Cusco

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!

View of Cusco from the Inca museum

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!)

Categories: Diary | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Road to Machu Picchu

  1. Lawson

    Sorry about the high altitude sickness son,but hopefully the wonders you described made it worth while.Reading your biocg is the highlight of our day,thanks a million!. We treasure each instalment and look forward to the next one.All our love , Dad and Mum.

  2. Lawson

    What a route, but what a prize. I can’t wait for the next instalment!! Love Mum

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