Walking to Machu Picchu with friends.
Hello Steem community!
I want to show you my trip to Machu Picchu I did in 2015 with a bunch of close friends. We were backpacking around South America on a budget, trying to travel cheaply to be able to do it for longer. It worked out pretty well, since we traveled for a little over six months. We arrived in Cusco, the closest main city to Machu Picchu. It really is a lovely city, with lots of history, old rock buildings, heaps of interesting things to do and see. We spent a few weeks in Cusco before going to Ollantaytambo, a small village in the heart of the Sacred Valley and very close to the beginning of the famous Inca Trail.
So from Ollantaytambo we took a local bus to go to the km 82 of the railway that goes from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the small village up in the valley that is at walking distance (1km) from the entrance to Machu Picchu. The original Inca Trail, is a tour in which local guides that walk you through the valley sometimes carrying your stuff, and you walk the same path the Incas used to walk to enter Machu Picchu. It sounds like an amazing tour really, specially from the knowledge the local guides can give you about the place, its history and its stories. But... and this is a big but, it is an expensive tour. It usually is a 4 days walk, with all the meals, the gear, the porters and so on. It costs around $400-$600 usd and since we were traveling on the cheap... we found a way around it. When you are traveling staying in backpackers you meet travelers that come from the way you are going to and vice versa. And then the information exchange comes naturally... you share tips and recommendations helping each other. So we heard a lot of stories about the "alternative Inca Trail" which was next to the one in the tour, just on the other side of the river. This way you can do it for free, walking alone through the Sacred Valley, Incan ruins and being a witness of some stunning landscapes. So thats what we did... its a 30 km walk (18.5 miles) which we did carrying out tents, clothes and food. I would say the difficulty is medium but since we were carrying a lot of stuff... sometimes it was a bit hard. We did it in two days, camping one night by the river, with some wild horses that made us company.
The second day, after a good night of sleep we continued to walk and walk... to finally arrive in Aguas Calientes. This small village, at the very bottom of Machu Picchu is only accessible on foot or by train. There we spent over a week at a local campsite, by the river meeting travelers from all around the world. We took our time to wait for the best day (weather) to finally do the walk up to Machu Picchu. We bought our Admissions in the village at around $40 usd per person. The day arrived and we were ready to climb our way up, we were excited, anxious, happy! After waking up early in the morning 5am ish, had a quick breakfast, and started walking. After passing the first Admission Ticket control, we started walking up the steep stairs that take you to the very top. Of course you can book the shuttle and getting there dry and smelling great, but again... we would do the extra effort to save some bucks. The stairs walk was packed with tourists, mostly youngsters, backpackers all rushing to get to the top before the sunrise to be able to see the sun coming out from behind the Waina Picchu mountain, the main peak in every MP picture.
So we made it in time, we were at the main gates before the sun coming up. Once inside, the views were amazing. There´s a weird feeling, when you have seen a place so many times in pictures, movies, documentaries, magazines, etc. To be there seeing it with your eyes... feels like you have been there before, its strange but cool. We walked around the ruins for hours. The place is packed with tourists from everywhere, sometimes it´s hard to take a picture without getting the odd tourist at the back, but still... you can make it. The park guards take extra care to prevent the tourism from deteriorating the place, asking politely to stop doing whatever you are doing wrong, and explaining you why. Fair enough... massive tourism can be hostile and it´s responsible to take all the precautions.
So... I hope you guys enjoy my words and pictures. It is a small contribution and probably the first of many. Stay tunned!