Thursday, November 8, 2012

Riding through the Sacred Valley

Thanks to Mark's advanced efforts to reserve us our entry to Machu Picchu (go to the official ministry of tourism to pay the right price, around US$50) and Huaynu Picchu (additional US$10, but very worth it), we didn't have too much to do while in Cusco.

The main plaza in Cusco
(main plaza in Cusco. This town is full of gringos and of people trying to sell massages and meals to gringos. It could grow old fast. There were some nice places to see, and redeeming qualities, though)

Two main things on our list were to find a good book exchange for Jill (mainly) and to find a new front tire for Mike (well, for both of us, but Mike gets to have this errand). The book exchange was a flop. The bookstores all have really crappy English books, if any at all. Some bars/coffee shops advertise book exchanges, but they are in it for profit even if you have a book to trade (talking more than US$15 for used books and they'll give you about 3...). Hostels didn't have much to offer. No dice. But Mike found a new front tire!

In need of a new tire in Cusco
(scary old Sahara 3)

New shoes in Cusco
(brand new MT-21! at a fair cost of S/150, US$57)

Exploring some more of Cusco by foot allowed us to see a bit more than just the main plazas and markets. Highlights included the all you can eat Indian food buffet for S/15 (alright, alright, this is kind of what we were complaining about just a second ago, but they didn't have a pusher-man out front, just a sign), the used clothes market, and the wild, attacking vicuñas.

Dangerous - wall at risk in Cusco
(when walls may fall down, they just put up a sign and let you figure it out)

Vicuño inside the ruins of Cusco (getting ready to attack)
(FYI - this is what a vicuña looks like when he's angry and wants to attack. In a guide book we read that you can enter the grounds of some public building and pet llamas and vicuñas, which sounded like fun. We had a different sort of fun...)

Vicuño inside the ruins of Cusco in attack mode
(...vicuña running wildly in attack mode...)

Vicuño inside the ruins of Cusco chasing the female tourist
(...vicuña chasing an unexpecting female tourist in circles, trying to kick her in the face...)

Vicuño inside the ruins of Cusco eating the woman's clothes
(...eventually the vicuña calmed down and just wanted to eat her clothes. All while this was happening, we, and the male companion of the tourist being attacked, were laughing hysterically. But we were also glad the vicuña didn't choose us as the target.)

Vicuño inside the ruins of Cusco

La Estrellita Hostel in Cusco
(crazy hail storm at la Estrellita)

The route to Machu Picchu took us through the Sacred Valley, past tons of Incan ruins, and through some interesting little towns. I'm sure a train ride up would be beautiful and scenic, but our approach was tough to beat!

Mike and Jill with the TA on the plaza in Ollantaytambo
(on the plaza in Ollantaytambo)

Riding through Ollantaytambo, with ruins immediately ahead
(Riding through Ollantaytambo, with ruins immediately ahead)

One of the ruins seen from the road on the way to Santa Teresa
(ruins seen from the road exist all throughout the Sacred Valley)

Mark riding to Santa Teresa
(Mark following us through the switchbacks. He was nice to slow his new machine down to match our old school, 2-up pace.)

Winding road to the 14000+ ft summit of Abra Malaga, between Cusco and Sta Teresa
(twisties on the way up to the 14000+ ft summit of Abra de Malaga)

Bathroom break on the road to Sta Teresa
(sometimes you gotta stop)

chatting with Guillaume on the road to Sta Teresa
(getting closer to Sta Teresa we ran into Guillaume, a Frenchman living in Thailand on a South American break for 6 months. His story is HERE)

Drainage on the road to Sta Teresa.  A few of these were extremely slippery, causing the TA to dance.
(some of these drainage troughs were super slippery, coated with a layer of moss or algae on the bottom. Crossing one we had a fun little TA dance going, but luckily held it together)

On the way to Santa Teresa
(the last couple of hours to Sta Teresa were on this fun dirt road)

On the way to Santa Teresa

Mark on the way to Santa Teresa
(Mark loving the ride)

On the road to Sta Teresa
(pulling up next to Mark on the road to Sta Teresa)

On the road to Sta Teresa
(surprise truck passing around a bend is old hat by now. But somehow still always a surprise)

Arriving in Sta Teresa, we found a nice little hostel that offered camping and a place to park the bikes for S/5 a night.

Bike storage in Sta Teresa
(bike storage in Sta Teresa. The owner even kept our boots and riding gear locked up inside. It worked out well)

As luck turned out, there was a van getting loaded to take a run the 7 km up to the hydroelectric dam. So we jumped in for the going rate of S/5 each. There you can either take a train to Aguas Calientes or walk, but since the train cost almost US$20 one way, you can guess what we did.

Hiking between Sta Teresa and Aguas Calientes
(on the way to Aguas Calientes. It's a 2.5 hour walk but pretty flat so easy overall)

Mark and Jill on the walk to Agua Calientes
(no walking, whaaat?)

Train passing on the walk to Agua Calientes
(although the train would've been faster. We didn't know it at the time, but at top left is Machu Picchu. The walk takes you right around Huaynu Picchu, and you get glimpses of terraced land down lower on the hillsides at times, but man, this site was well-hidden)

Mark getting undressed on the walk to Agua Calientes
(with how many different layers we wear as moto travelers, we're all used to changing quickly wherever. We just consider it a "cultural exchange")


Aguascalientes is a little tourist hotspot that's been overbuilt with accomodations and restaurants. The best offer is generally the 4 x 1 mixed drinks (mmmm, pisco sour) - but make sure you get your free nachos with it, they often try to get out of that part - and the S/15 menú. Simple but good options. However, the draw to Aguascalientes has nothing to do with what Aguascalientes itself offers; it has everything to do with what sits beside it...

No comments:

Post a Comment