Big day today, not only is this the middle of my 30 days trip, but I also made it to the pinnacle of it all, Machu Picchu. The farthest (and highest) point from where I started, everything from this point forwards is heading back to where I came, Vina del Mar. A longer way back, I’ll be wasting no time getting between destinations. I still have to visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, the infamously picturesque Death Road of Bolivia, the Uyuni salt flats, and Mendoza, Argentina before this trip really comes to an end.
I woke up along with a couple other guys off to Machu Picchu around 4:30am. The difference between us? They are hiking the Inca trail for 5 days while I take various methods of motorized transportation the entire way. I mean seriously, I go to the gym so I don’t have to do silly pedestrian things like “hike” or “walk” places.
I left most of my things at Loki, planning on spending one night in a town nearby Machu Picchu before continuing on to Puno back through Cusco. Using my trusty Google Maps, I left at 6am for what I was told would be an hour and a half ride. I should have known something was off when my phone told me to get off the nicely paved road and turn sharply onto a rutted mud track. Always drawn by adventure though, I didn’t bat an eye. I was led into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, passing through miles of remote farmland, villages, and beautifully maintained Incan heritage sights. I was so drawn into the landscape before me, I didn’t question the sketchier and sketchier roads I was heading down. That is, until Google Maps told me to merge up ahead onto a busy road not far from my destination. The problem? I was sky high on the top of a mountain and the road I was suppose to turn onto “in 200 meters” was at the bottom of the valley. Oh ya, and there was no road down, just a straight drop off a cliff long enough to call up your entire family, a couple dozen friends, and check to make sure your Will is in order before plummeting to your demise. So you know what stupid decision I made? I chose adventure. There was a barely visible service road I spotted out of the corner of my eye, maybe a 4 foot wide path of mud and rocks etched out of the mountain side. It seemed to be going downhill, and now becoming late for my rather expensive train, I put all of my faith in Google Maps. Adrenaline rushed through my veins and I was honestly loving it, this took South American off roading to another level, slipping through mud, narrowly dodging large obstructions in the not so large path before me. About 30 minutes later, I hit an impasse. The path stopped. It led me to what I could only imagine was the intiial stages of a cell tower or something of the sorts, half way to the city below. So close but oh so far, I turned back around carefully and now headed up the mountain. Within 5 minutes my engine sputtered out on a particularly steep climb, my brakes did nothing as the mud dragged the bike back down the hill, the bike fell over, left mirror shattered, clutch bent, my trunk smashed open spewing it’s contents along the mountain side. Even as I got the bike back up, it would just slide father down the hill, almost impossible to control. I was utterly screwed and completely terrified. If I couldn’t get the bike up and started, I would be stuck high up on the side of a mountain, a city in sight at the bottom of the valley but entirely inaccessible on foot. By some miracle, I wheeled it down to a flat area and got her running. So as not to repeat the same mistake, I had to go up the hill full speed, keeping my momentum. Dangerous? Yes. Stupid? Probably. Did it work? Hell ya it did!
Looking at my GPS I wandered around some fields for a bit looking for the magical road. As expected, nothing was found and I started to head back the way I came. I asked locals herding livestock around where to go, they all said to head to the cemetery and take the road down. Eventually I make it, thankful I wasn’t a member of that graveyard. The road down was a long one, but at least it was a tad bit wider and had gravel. At this point I missed my train, but I book it to Ollantaytambo to try and catch the next one. At $80 per way, it wasn’t cheap, but I wasn’t about to miss out on my one chance to see alpacas graze on sacred Incan lands. And boy did I see alpacas graze. Forget dolphins and penguins, this one moment made up for it all. Once I got to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, I hopped on a bus and before I knew it I was just steps away from one of the 7 wonders of the world. While the entire experience, from arriving in Cusco to the bus to MP, was pretty touristy, there is nothing like seeing the place with your own eyes. Not even just the ruins but the surrounding landscape, I’ve never seen such thin towering mountains before. My first instinct was to hike to the sungate, a viewpoint high above the deserted city. An intense hour of hiking later I got to the top and that’s when I really felt like my trip had reached a pivotal point. I wouldn’t be going any higher or farther from there, everything from that one spot was a new chapter. It took a lot to walk back down, I just sat there and enjoyed the 2,000+ miles of progress I had made over the last couple weeks. I eavesdropped on some tour guides as I explored and picked up a little bit of knowledge, hung out with some alpaca up on the far side, and just took it all in. Once I had my fill, I took the bus back down to town, feasted on some alpaca burritos, and took the train back to Ollantaytambo. My bike isn’t in the best shape, but it can drive and that’s what matters. Today I’m going back to Loki to pick up my luggage, and possibly a fellow traveller interested in coming with to Puno. It’ll be about 8 or 9 hours of driving in all, but luckily most of my trip is paved roads from here on.