Follow the published narration and story of two friends traveling South, through 15 countries and two continents. From Ottawa Canada to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rob and Nik are set to embark on a journey meant to take a year, to be completed in a mere 2 months.

January - March 2011 : A year in the making..

We promise this blog will not only be awesome to read, but PACKED with info on how to plan your own trip........

the RIGHT way.

With only two months to complete the trip, we'll be cramming in tons of VIDEOS, PICS and useful and hopefully funny info.

Stay tuned for the Extended Video Log on my YouTube Channel after the trip; this blog is only the beginning....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Backdoor to Machu Picchu - Rob

Off on another adventure, we're definitely making this trip more difficult than we ever thought it would be. But its also making for some damn good stories. Oh but before I begin, and this will also add credit to the stories to follow, Stephen Dam would like me to make one correction from the previous post: When I said waterfalls would push you across the road, and then inserted a picture of a weak waterfall splashing onto the road, impressive as it was, this is what I meant...

Little bit more than a spraying waterfall eh DAM


The ride from Abancay to Cuzco was similar to the day before, a bit wet, but not as high up, so we didnt have to suffer as much. 150 kilometres took us about 3 hours, lots of twists and switchbacks again, construction repairing roads and rivers to follow along. Once we got to Cuzco, we wondered whether or not just to continue onwards, but a half day of riding would give us a nice break. The touristy atmosphere of Cuzco means up-the-ass prices most of anywhere you go. Park the bikes, walk hotel to hotel, $100.00 here, $110.00 there, and finally a half decent hotel for $50.00, reasonable enough. We're not used to spending that much anymore, but here we were in Cuzco and didnt have much choice. We managed to stay mostly dry, however, as soon as we needed to park the bikes: massive downpour, soaking everything, ugh....Luckily, the room was equipped, heater, hot water, nice view, lots of pillows, soap and shampoo and toilet paper (these essentials are damn rare in Peru for some reason), and an elevator. Always nice to get one of those with 100 pounds of luggage. OH and a buffet breakfast mmmm, awesome. Hoteles de las Villas Hermozas, off El Sol.

We spent the day drying clothes, doing laundry, touring around, neat little town, very historic. They were right in naming it to Culture Capital of Peru. Nik was feeling some sort of dizzy, so we took it easy for the afternoon. Found an archeological site at the top of the town, but they wanted 70 soles each to enter. That's 25-30 bucks. I thought only Machu would be worth a price that steep. Onward we continued until we found a place to park the bikes, and just walked in off the road. You'd think they'd at least fence it off. A very interesting site, we goofed around here until dark and then went back for some Chifu (chinese)...a recurring theme.

The new settings I fooled around with on the camera...makes a big difference in the pictures

We were lucky to catch some cool weather conditions in Cuzco

These buildings are located in the Plaza de las Armas section of Cuzco, biggest tourist trap

Some really nice architecture for a tiny city in the mountains


The university

Still playing with my camera

Heres some ruins Nik closely compares to as good as Machu Picchu, and as damn near expensive

The businessman ready for some dirt riding

I'm in a t-shirt but trust me, its 10 degrees

Nik wondering how the hell these rocks get there

These rocks are massive

Makes Nik look like a midget

Cuzco at dusk

Anddd Cuzco at night

After a throughouly enjoyed breakfast, we headed up and around Machu Picchu, to save some money and experience an adventure few get to. Lets begin with exactly what it this backdoor is. Ok so most tourists, most people think the only way to get to Machu Picchu is by train. Wrong. There are no roads to get to Aguas Calientes (the town of Machu Picchu), this much is correct, but you can get close enough if you're willing to be adventurous and "cheap". Instead of taking the bus to Ollyabamate (ok I spelled it wrong but the train stop), you continue on that road to Santa Maria, a three hour drive up, over the mountains, back down, and through some nasty gravel roads. An unnoticeable left turn across the river from Santa Maria, another hours drive to Saint Teresa, and you're almost there. From here, you cab, or ride to the Hydroelectric dam where you can park your bikes guarded, and then proceed to take a 2 and a half hour hike up the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. So it can be done on the "cheap".
Recommendations:
  • Do it ONLY if you want a different experience, on a motorcycle especially, because the roads are very cold and wet in the mountains, and very dangeorus following the rivers. Bolivia death road?? Is a joke compared to what you have to ride to get to Saint Teresa.
  • As a rider, it ends up being just a little bit cheaper in the end, so don't count on saving money, because of the gas fill-ups and extra nights accomodation (38.00 for train each way, plus one nights accomodation and food; whereas 25 dollars in fuel, two-three nights accomodation, plus food).
  • Be weary of the time of year you go, rainy season could spell disaster (read below to find out).
  • Be prepared to walk, and then walk, and walk some more. You will be sore if you're not accustomed to hiking, like us.

Ok, now you have an idea of what it is...here's our experience. Would we do it again? Definitely not. The train is relaxing, expensive, but worth it. When the road is paved, there are infinite switchbacks from which we are tiring; you see the road below you, and it takes almost an hour to get there from the top, very frustrating. When the road becomes gravel, its manageable, but then it becomes mud. Deep mud, very slippery, and very dangerous. When we took the road to Saint Teresa, we thought we were going to die. Mind you, I loved this part, and looking forward to taking it back, but one mistake...literally one mistake, and you're dead. You drop the bike, and it will slide off the edge, 300, sometimes 400 feet straight down into the rocky riverbed. And because its mud and gravel (rainy season), I guarantee you'll slip and slide a bit. That and because its barely a single track, you'll nearly hit many vehicles. There were times where I'd skid to a halt inches from the fender or bumper of a crazy taxi or pickup truck. Nik's making me lead on the way back for this reason. Soooo, in the end, finally made it to Saint Teresa in one piece. We passed through, eager to park the bikes and hike before nightfall. We got within 3 kilometres of the dam, and the road was washed out. Now what....

The valley of taking the wrong way to get to the backdoor of Machu Picchu

And this could be the most interesting road yet....you'll see why in a sec

Getting better, more fun

Ok damnit, I didn't capture a good shot, I have a video i'll have to upload as soon as I can

Some massive currents here

So bad it wipes the road out and leaves you stranded

Nearly wiping me out at the same time

This is the checkpoint to the backway to Machu Picchu, the hydroelectric plant

Along the tracks, theres a lot to see

Kayaking conditions

The town of Aguas Calientes


We brought the bikes back to Teresa, found a hostal to park them the night and got a cab to the washout point. From there, you have to walk to the dam, which wasn't too bad, but a little extra of the hike we weren't expecting. Here's the continuation of what I said this experience could spell disaster....the washout happened two days before we got there. In rainy season, its a regular occurence. Say we got here two days before, the bikes would have been stuck at the hydroelectric. Depending on how bad it is, it can take weeks to get the roads back together again. Its been five days now and that road is only half back. So from the hike, its mostly up hill up on the tracks. There are quite a few people from all ages that do this as well. We made it to Aguas before nightfall and stayed in a hostal owned by the brother of the hostal our bikes were at in Teresa. We know how to keep it cheap, so instead of spending the gringo dollars at the worthlessly expensive restaurants with bad service, we ate at the supermercado with the locals for 2.50. Early to bed, because the next day was going to be long.

Machu Picchu is impressive. Really impressive. I would recommend visiting it to anyone and everyone, but prepare for it. Jog, use a stair master, do whatever you have to, because, I think I speak for both of us when I say its the toughest hike, the toughest climb, we have ever done by far. No one told me prior the extremities of this site, so when people will ask me if it was the experience of a lifetime, again, I will tell them, it's an adventure of a lifetime, but not the experience, because this place would need gondolas for that. We got there on the 5:40 am bus, and stood at least 100th in line. Surprising, for sure, especially since we wanted to get to Wayapicchu, and only 200 people are allowed up at once, twice daily. We gunned it through the misty site, and stood in line for the high climb. I never realized how steep and dangerous it would be, but again, one slip, and death. No exagerration. I set a challenge for myself and basically ran up as fast as I could, I wanted to be the first, the first at least of the day to get up to the top and claim victory. The hike takes an hour, I pushed past all the people in front of me to take the top in 20 minutes. Its really nice to be the only one on the mountain, looking out over Machu Picchu way below. Nik came up with two other guys not long after, but soon then they all started flocking in. Gets too busy and it becomes a hecticly lame experience, so we took off back down the mountain.

Just a few people in front of us at 5:45 in the morning

Being creepy is my specialty

Still think Niks better at it

Waiting for Waynapicchu to open, might as well take my head off

I started to get brave and adventurous

The great Waynapicchu

The map we shouldve followed but ended up double backing on ourselves by two hours, exhausting us

Yep, exhausting us

One of the easier climbs

And one of the trickier ones

Just barely fit through with my bag, and I'm skinny as hell!

The first view from the top, all by myself!

The road up to the site

And of course the main site itself, sooo far away


The guy that took this picture failed to make us look like we're in Machu Picchu.....

So i intervened for some proof


Thus follows many Machu Picchu pictures

Sometimes there aren't any paths to follow but the ones you make yourselves

Some pretty cool rock formations

The great cavern, again all by ourselves

For the most part, the park was empty for our hikes....this is me doing my 20 minute accomplishment bragging rights




Yeah, we're goofballs...poor people that have to take our pictures for us



They let these guys roam wherever they want, they're pretty friendly too, except when you try to ride their backs

The hydroelectric plant, view from the top



From there we hung around, taking it slow because we were sooooooo exhausted. We visited the Cave and the Bridge, and then decided to call it as we would have another 2-3 hour walk back down the tracks. One cold beer, another Chifu meal, and off we went. This was an arduous hike, sore from the days before us, but we made it back to the dam, found a taxi to take us to the washout (poor guy got stuck on the wrong side of the road) and then took a tour van to the town.

We're here in the hotel now with three other motorbikes, so I suppose we're not the only crazy riders to do this. We ate dinner at one of the busier restaurants, which was still damn expensive. When we ordered a simple chicken spaghetti, our waiter ran across the street to get our sprites. He then ran to another store to pick up some spaghetti sauce. Our marathon waiter basically ran around town the entire time we waited for our plates, collecting ingredients for ours and the other patron's meals. This is a joke right? Just-in-time ordering? No inventory costs..I don't get it. Whatever, a local dog kept us busy in the meantime, bleeding from its huge open wound in its side, licking it furiously in front of us. Little kids would come and poke and prod at it, and we were getting seriously fed up. Finally the meal came, no chicken, just meat, guess our Boston Marathoner couldn't bargain up a good deal for chicken, the fucker, and threw some meat on it instead. Thats fine, bad meat, onions, tomatoes, and french fries on spaghetti, yes french fries, was not that bad, but I call him a fucker because when the bill came, it was to be 22.00 soles each, which the bill initially stated. I gave him my amount, and he went back inside, and changed the bill to 24.00 each, for the meat. We nearly broke a chair over his head, got our correct change and took off. Another wonderful exchange with the locals. From this point we were both in agreeance, we've spent enough time in Peru, so we're focused on traveling as far and fast as we can to Bolivia. Its about 15 hours, we might be able to do it in two days, we'll see how it goes.

3 comments:

  1. Wow!!! The scenery is much different from the sand dunes! Love the green everywhere. Machu picchu is simply amazing! You guys are crazy!!! The climb looks steep as hell, glad you didn't brake a leg. Do you suffer from altitude sickness??? Just wondering a lot of people say they are affected while travelling in those mountains, curious I guess. Anyway, have fun.
    Catherine

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  2. Your Cousin ChloeMarch 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    hi its chloe ,i love your photos i cant wait to see you,be safe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "They let these guys roam wherever they want, they're pretty friendly too, except when you try to ride their backs" LOL - Juan

    ReplyDelete