This week I’m sharing with you a picture of the road to Aguas Calientes, Peru. Taken by Brianne Miers from A Traveling Life Blog.
Brianne has travelled extensively since her first trip overseas to China at the age of 11. Wow! Her blog focuses on how to balance a career with a life of travel. Do follow her for more adventures and advice on Facebook and Instagram.
Photo Story: Getting to Aguas Calientes
The lesson of this photo is: take the train.
While some people save and plan for years before visiting Machu Picchu – considered a “bucket list” destination for most travellers – my friend and I waited to book our tour until 9 p.m. the night before we departed Cusco.
Having arrived in town without a plan, we chatted up various tour operators and discovered that the cheapest train tickets to Aguas Calientes, which serves as the jumping-off point for visiting Machu Picchu, were rough $150 round trip. Whoa.
Because my friend was getting to the end of his cash after a year on the road, and I’m a bargain shopper, we were convinced that we could find a better deal.
We did at our hostel, which had a tour departing at 8:30 a.m. the next morning for the impressively low price of around $100 – including one night in a hostel AND the $40 admission fee to the park.
The catch was that we had to travel by bus, which would take twice as long as the train. “It can’t be that bad, right?” I asked my friend.
It was bad. For more than six hours in an un-airconditioned, dusty and cramped van, 14 other tourists and I braced ourselves against seats, ceiling and anything else we could grab onto as we flew around hairpin turns on the 70-mile journey.
Only the brave among us dared to look out the windows – there were no guardrails to keep us from plummeting down the steep slope to the valley below – and we frequently came face-to-face with trucks travelling in the opposite direction, resulting in some terrifying manoeuvring on the narrow dirt road.
At one point, there was a collective shriek when we charged over a swollen stream on two narrow wooden planks in place of where the road had been.
Needless to say, we were quick to disembark when we pulled into the parking lot at Hidroelectrica, the site of a – you guessed it – hydroelectric plant about 15 miles from Aguas Calientes.
About every 15-20 minutes, a train would blow past us, sending us scrambling into the trees as the comfortable passengers seated inside waved to us from the windows.
We arrived in the bustling tourist town of Aguas Calientes sore from our long walk and damp from a quick downpour.
Collapsing in the main square under the statue of Pachacutec – the Incan emperor that built Machu Picchu – we enjoyed a well-deserved Cerveza and tried not to think that in less than 24 hours we would need to do the whole trip all over again to get back to Cusco.