Paying careful attention to driving with the lights on now, we continued on to Cusco . We found ourselves driving into the city in the dark – again. This time we really had it driven home as to why it is such a bad idea when we passed a horrendous collision between a tractor and a car just minutes after it happened, it was a pretty grisly scene. It renewed our respect for emergency medics now, who can deal with those situations without losing their cool (or their dinner)
We had found out about another overland campsite (Quinta Lala) just on the outskirts of the city on the hill above the Plaza de Armas. The site was very peaceful and had a really nice bunch of other overlanders staying, the campsite owners were lovely too.
Having chatted to people and read the info sheet provided by the campsite we decided we would go to Machu Picchu from Santa Teresa, a 4-5 hour drive away.
There are limited numbers of visitors allowed up to the Machu Picchu each day, and tickets have to be purchased in Cusco before you go – handy, as we happened to be there. Despite this, the crap ticketing website, and the Ministry of Culture Office making itself hard to find, we were lucky enough to get tickets for the next day.
The drive to Santa Teresa is a five hour drive passing through other sacred valley sites on the way. The road after Ollantaytambo winds its way steeply up to the Araba Malaga pass at 4350m, if you happened to have a road bike it would be an epic climb. We decided to stop just after the pass to take in the amazing views of Nevados Veronica and leave the last little bit of driving to the morning. Tom was keen on climbing the mountain until we found it was 5822m at the summit… nuff said.
We found out in the morning that the last little bit of the drive was not so little, and in parts very scary! Daylight (and a head for heights) was definitely required for the road between Santa Maria and Santa Teresa, although maybe not seeing the 500m drop into the gorge may have its advantages… We shot some video, but the tablet is struggling with the edit so here’s some stills from the video, sorry about the quality.
We arrived at Santa Teresa much later than expected so had to jump in a taxi to try and perhaps take the train to MP to save a bit of time, only it turns out that there is only one train, which we had already missed. Marvellous. So it was back to the option of walking there, which turned out to not only save us the cost of a train ticket but was a gorgeous and very easy trail through the forest. Not so easy was the walk up the steps to the ruins themselves, I think there is something like 1000m of height gain if you walk all the way to the sun gate as we did.
It was so worth it. The ruins are quite spectacular, and we had a good mooch around while discretely earwigging in on tour guides.
We decided on catching one of the last busses down to save a bit of time, but cost 25 US each, ouch. We just had to walk the 9km trail along the train line back, we were treated to seeing fireflies come out as night fell which was really magical. We hadn’t factored in the fact that there was no transport back to Santa Teresa at this hour, but the two hour walk didn’t seem so bad being mostly downhill (especially after a 1300 meters ascent!) and it was a gorgeous moonlit night. But we weren’t complaining when a bus ferrying a bunch of miners into town offered us a free lift – South American hospitality at its best!