So, we finally arrived in Cusco! Again the ride was amazing and took us over an approx..4200m pass with fog and rain. Riding into Cusco was almost like into any other town. First you pass the really poor areas with dirt road and shacks (and lots of garbage!) then the road turns into pavement or cobble stones and the houses change to more colonial style. We found our Hostel near the Plaza de Armas and also met the German couple Joerg and Marita, whom we first met in Cajamarca. They checked into the same hostel!
Hostel Estrellita is a simple one, run by 2 older Senores, who are very busy keeping the place clean and prepare breakfast every day, which we have in the courtyard outside, where our bikes are parked.
Cusco is a large city with lots of history. It has a large old part with lots of beautiful colonial style buildings and wood carved balconies and narrow cobblestone streets. It used to be the capital of the Inca Empire. At its peak, Cusco, built in the shape of a puma, was a city with sophisticated water systems, paved streets, and no poverty. The Spaniards were certainly impressed by the order and magnificence of Cusco, and wrote back to Spain that it was the most marvelous city of the New World. But all they were interested in was their treasures: conquistadors greedily pushed their way into ancient temples and seized their gold and silver artworks, which they melted into bullion. Cusco retained a level of importance for the first few decades after the Spanish Conquest but by 1535 the capital of this new Spanish Colony had been set up in Lima. Now it is the jumping-off point for visits to one of South America’s best known tourist attractions such as Machu Picchu.
This is very noticeable with tourists everywhere and therefore with Peruvians and indigenous people young or old rich or poor trying to make a buck off you and many times being relentless with this task! Of course Heinz is the perfect target for any hat and tuque seller, who run after us appealing to me, why I wasn’t buying my poor husband a hat!
Anyway, before we were taking the trip to Machu Picchu, we wanted to explore the city a bit more. There are numerous Museums, some of them we visited the next day after our arrival and just walked the streets a bit. We also hiked up to the overwhelming fortress of Sacsayhuaman, which still partially stands above Cusco. It’s made of massive stones weighing up to 17000kg, had at least 3 huge towers and a labyrinth of rooms large enough for at least 5000 Inca soldiers. It was the focus of the great rebellion led by Manco Inca against the Spanish in 1536. Unfortunately the Spanish regained control, the inner buildings of the fortress were destroyed in part to provide building stones for many of Cusco’s structures.
Now there are different ways to get to the famous Machu Picchu. The easiest and most comfortable being the railway, certainly is the most expensive. With our budget… out of the question!
We were also thinking about taking the bikes and trying to get as close as possible, but out friends from Germany, Joerg and Marita, told us that the road to the town of Santa Teresa could be one big mudslide if it had rained. So we ended up booking a Minibus to the Hydroelectrica, which is on the backside of Machu Picchu and from there you can take a 2 hour hike along the railroad tracks to Aguas Calientes, where buses depart every 5 minutes up to the famous mountain.
So on Thursday we left most of our stuff and the bikes at the Hostel and took the trip to Aguas Calientes. A 6 hour bus ride through amazing scenery and adventurous dirt roads and the 2 hour hike along the train tracks always ready to get off the tracks in case the train was coming took us to the bottom of the famous mountain.
Aguas Calientes is a total tourist town with numerous Hotels, restaurants and Hostels not to forget the gazillions of souvenir stands. It is now the off-season with most of the restaurants empty and the waiters desperately trying to lure you inside by waving the menu in front of you. Can be annoying!
We settled into our Hostel, bought our ticket for the bus one way up to the Mountain, planning to hike back down. We took an early one right after 5:30 am the next day, to be there before the big crowd would come, but… of course a lot of other people had the same idea, so we had to stand in line until the gate opened at 6:00am.For me the big “wow” effect was gone, because I had seen this place 6 years ago. It is still amazing, but I really have to ignore the crowds, that walk around taking selfies at every corner with their selfie sticks, try to “ yoga-pose” on every stone available and don’t seem to take any interest in the history of this place. I was very tempted at times to give some of them just a little push… ah sorry that was mean! We stayed for a couple of hours and only asked a young French couple to take a picture of both of us… the old way!
Next day we hiked back to where the bus would pick us up again and… what a pleasant coincidence, bumped into our Motorcycle friends from the Stahlratte, Stewart and Will, who were on their way to Machu Picchu. We had a quick chat and then moved on, being sure that we will see again, because we will be taking the same route down south via Bolivia and Chile.
Last night just around 10 pm we arrived back in Cusco. We decided to stay one more day here, take it easy and leave early Monday morning towards Lake Titicaca.
We already watched the Sunday Parade this morning at the Plaza de Armas, which was mostly a military show-down, which reminded me of the old days of East Germany.