In case you're not aware, there are many different ways of getting to Machu Picchu, the 15th century built Inca city situated in the Andes mountain range, Peru. We had researched a few options including trains, buses, trails and hikes but our sense of adventure drew us to the Inca trail hikes. The hikes usually take 4 days, the fourth day being the day you arrive at Machu Picchu, take all your photos then get a train back to Cusco in the evening. What you'll often find with these tours is that they book out months in advance. We couldn't afford that kind of deadline so we did some further investigation and found a short trail that was pet friendly. Other bikers had blogged about riding to a Hydro-electric scheme, parking their bikes and then hiking. So this is how The Pack Track saw Machu Picchu.
We had a delayed start leaving Cusco. Janells chain and sprocket desperately needed replacing before we left the city. We visited a street known to have a few motorbike parts and accessories shops but unfortunately had no luck getting one to fit the 650GS. Long story short, a lady helped us find a mechanic who was able to fabricate a slightly larger generic sprocket (50 teeth as opposed to 47) to fit Janell's motorbike; the difficulty is getting the holes in the sprocket to line up with the bolts. With that done we confidently rode out of Cusco.
It was an easy riding day covering a mere 60 km. Our destination for the night was Urubamba. We pulled in to a friendly hostel and spent the night drinking Pisco Sours and talking to the owner Elizabeth, her son and four backpackers. From this delightful evening we were able to narrow down a plan of attack to see Machu Picchu using their local knowledge.
The next morning was a little hectic trying to get on the road as early as possible. We decided to leave Janell's motorbike safely stored at the hostel and travel 3-up on Stu's motorbike. We therefore had to swap the contents of the panniers around and repack a few things to take only what we needed for the hike plus tools for the motorbike should anything go wrong. Elizabeth made us a hearty breakfast then we were on our way to the town of Santa Teresa. The distance was 180km, most of which was fine, with a mountain climb thrown in there for good measure, but the last section was on a narrow dirt/gravel road that ominously overlooked a distant stream. Janell enjoyed sitting back and enjoying the views while Stu worked hard riding the motorbike.
The hydro-electric station itself was easy to find but we had to ask staff for directions as to where the motorbike should be parked. We followed the path to the left after entering for about 300m then rode up a driveway and into the carport of a house. Two men were standing outside and knew exactly what we wanted. Stu's motorbike was parked under cover with all our riding gear and we agreed on a rate of 10 Sol per night to park the motorbike. We confidently left at 5 pm with only the things needed for hike.
Negrita was pumped. We kept her on the lead for the majority of the walk but she was zig-zagging everywhere trying to take it all in. We passed through some properties to get to the railway line so there were lots of great smells and chickens running around. Just as we entered the railway line there were shops selling supplies for an obviously significant market of hikers and tourists taking the train. This surprised us! We continued along the tracks, crossing sides every now and then to follow the path has been created by so many feet before us. All up in took around 2.5 hours to walk to the 11km to Agua Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Pichu, only accessible by train or foot. It was too far for Negrita to walk the whole way so we had our trusty Bolivian blanket to wrap her up and carry her. Honestly she had an absolute ball, walking or being carried, and she even got a free meal from a passing family who had leftover rice and chicken (her favourite).
Commencing our walk at 5pm resulted in a very dark arrival in to Agua Calientes, definitely not recommended when walking through tunnels and on an uneven and rocky surface. Nonetheless we made it without any problems and it certainly added to the excitement of seeing the lights of Agua Calientes. We were quite tired after our big day and managed to book in to a hostel on the train line for 40 Sol/night, a great deal due to off-peak season. We wolfed down a meal of pasta at a nearby restaurant, purchased our entry tickets to Machu Picchu for the next day then went to bed, exhausted but excited for tomorrow.
The day had finally come, we were going to see Machu Picchu with our own eyes. The alarm went off at 5:00 am and we were out of the hostel in no time, walking again but this time it was a stairway to the remnants of an ancient civilisation. Negrita was wrapped up tight in her blanket and nestled on Stuarts back. It took a good hour to reach the entrance and we were a little anxious to enter, we were hoping Negrita could come with us if she remained in her blanket but security was quick to pull us aside and outline the relevant pet policies. Apparently when we were in Cusco we could have applied for a permit to take her into the site for $800 but without that permit she would not be allowed to enter. Tourists also can't take backpacks of a certain size in to the site so Negrita had to wait in the baggage room with the staff until we were finished. Don't worry though, she was well looked after and quite popular at the end of the day.
A little deflated we passed through the gates and began exploring. Don't underestimate the size of this ruin site. There are several 'hikes' you can do aside from seeing the city. We $20 we joined a tour that lasted two hours and took us around the city. You can negotiate the price but its definitely worth being guided through the site and hearing about its history. Conscious that Negrita was waiting for us we decided to only do one of the hikes, Macchu Picchu mountain. There was also the sun gate the ancient bridge and if you paid extra and got in early the Huayna Picchu hike. Some things to keep in mind on your visit:
Toilets are located outside the entrance to the site (not within the Machu Picchu site).
There is a restaurant, cafe and shop located outside the entrance to the site.
Just to be very clear, you cannot buy anything once you enter the site.
You can only exit/enter the site on your day pass up to three times, this includes your visits to the facilities (toilets and shops) outside the site.
The Peruvian government is looking to construct boardwalks around the site within the next 5 years which will prevent tourists from walking on the ground in the city (according to our guide).
You don't need to organise a guided tour prior, you can organise it at the entrance to the site.
Don't try to sneak a dog in, they'll catch you.
It wasn't a particularly busy day when we were there but we didn't feel that crowds detracted from the experience at all. You have to keep in mind that it was once a city with people bustling about and carrying on with their lives so really it brings the site alive with all the tourists.
We decided to spend one day more in the town of Agua Calientes to walk around, eat lots of food and look at the art and craft stores. Its a very pretty town, also a very tourist driven town, so its just a fun place to be. Then it was time to do the walk back to the motorbike and continue our travels in Peru. Next stop Nazca.