When we arrived in Cusco, we didn’t have a tour to Machu Picchu booked. We had looked online at the Inca Jungle trail, a three day / two night tour that included downhill cycling and zip-lining, but at US$300 each, we decided to wait and try and find a better deal. Peru Hop had advised us to be wary at anything under US$150, but we had met an Irish fella who paid US$150 and said he had a ball, so we weren’t too put off. When we spoke to the owner of Hostal Kay Pacha where we were staying in Cusco, she organized for a tour agency rep to come to the hostel and talk through some options. We didn’t even have to leave the hostel! We ended up getting a tour including zip-lining for US$160 each, so we were pretty stoked. Entry to Machu Picchu is US$50 alone, so it wasn’t too bad really for all transport, food, and two nights’ accommodation. We were able to leave our bags at the hostel until we got back to Cusco which was a great help. So we packed the bare minimum (me with my camera bag, Pedro with everything else), and had an early night.
We left early the next morning and jumped in a mini-van with a driver, an English-speaking guide, and nine other travellers – five were a mixed-bag of blokes doing volunteer construction work in Cusco, three German fellas, and there was a solo Northerner. All of the groups had booked through different companies for different prices. And I was the only female in the van. The first activity was downhill biking. It was pretty daunting – we were warned about the dangers of sharing the road with all forms of speeding vehicles around twisty roads, told to keep to the right, and to have fun. The awkward part was that the van would follow us down in case we required any assistance. Needless to say the guys bolted down the hill, and we were left for dead. Thankfully Pedro stayed with me as we sailed down the roads, getting soaked riding through streams of water that gushed over the pavement at various points along the way. The view was stunning, and I white-knuckled it down, at times having to overtake slow-moving trucks, at others hugging the drain as much as I could while others sped past. At other times feeling guilty that I wasn’t as fast as the others, as the van was right on my tail. But it was truly exhilarating. A lot different to our casual cycles in Vancouver!
After lunch the others went white-water rafting which was another optional activity, but Pedro and I stayed in the restaurant and played Peruvian Monopoly, Chinese Checkers, and pool instead. The Germans and the Northerner then bid the rest of us farewell as they’d opted to do the four day trek, and two Scandinavians jumped in, and away we went to Santa Teresa. The trip was really rough. We were driving along unsealed insanely bumpy roads in pitch black darkness, with sheer cliffs to our left, listening to horrible pop-music while the driver constantly played on his phone. It was tough going, but after what felt like eons we saw some lights off in the distance and began to relax.
When we arrived and the door opened, there were some other tour guides standing there calling out the names of different tour companies, and our group split up in different directions to apparently stay in various accommodations. We were led to a decent looking hostel, and told to dump our bags and meet the rest of the group for dinner. We did as we were told, and were introduced to two gentleman from England, a twenty-something Swedish male, and a twenty-something gal from the US, and we chatted over dinner, drank some suss looking tequila with plenty of floaties out of an even more suss looking vessel, and then hit the hay for a big day.
The morning started with brekky, then away we went for zip-lining! We went through a company called Vertikal, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. We hung upside-down and soared like condors along five different zip-lines strung over a huge valley, and bounced our way across a suspension bridge. It was terrifying at first, but once I got over the fact that I could potentially fall to my death, it was sensational.
We drove for a little while and then had to hike roughly three hours along the train line to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, where we would be staying on the second night. It was a leisurely stroll through a wonderful landscape, with the Urubamba river raging next to us, brown like chocolate milk and looking very dangerous. We were given instructions on what the next day would entail, ate dinner together, had a meander through the market, and had another early night. The next day was what we were all looking forward to – Machu Picchu!