42. CUSCO TO LA PAZ

42. CUSCO TO LA PAZ

2017-09-16T05:05:09+00:00March 3rd, 2016|2015-16 Ride|

Cusco was once the capital of the Inca empire and it’s where most tourists fly in to visit Machu Picchu. There are several options to get to the famous site – with most tourists taking the train – but we have decided to “ride” – as close as we can! After a very wet night in Cusco we head out of town – past the beautiful green patchwork fields of potatoes and quinoa on the Chinchero plateau.

We drop down in to the Sacred Valley and follow the Urubamba River to Ollantaytambo – another “tourist” town full of large, slippery cobblestones!!

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Incredible hills flanking the town of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley.

The road from Ollantaytambo to Santa Maria is an absolute highlight – perfect corners as we climb up and up through spectacular scenery yet again!

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This piece of road “rates” – such a pleasure to ride!

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Breathtaking scenery and very little traffic.

At Santa Maria we make a decision not to ride the stretch to Santa Teresa – it has been raining solidly for many days and this road is for the adventurous at the best of times. We store the bikes at a friendly local hotel and take a “collectivo” – a privately-owned small station wagon – with our “load” including two adults in the front, us and another adult in the back, two women and three kids plus lots of bags of food in the back!! The cost for us “gringoes” is AUD$6 each!

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The raging Urubamba River as we climb out of Santa Teresa.

The road is unpaved and full of massive deep potholes – like small lakes – then it climbs and becomes narrow, with deep precipices and several “dodgy” river crossings – in parts the road is just chiselled out of the rocky mountainside! In the dry season it would be manageable but we are happy to “bump” our way along for 40 minutes on this slushy road. We walk to Aguas Calientes and feel a sense of awe – we have arrived at one of the world’s most prized wonders – it’s right above us – waiting to be explored! The road goes straight up the sheer mountain in a series of switchbacks with views out to the valley below.

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Half-way on the road up to Machu Picchu.

Sunrise shots are out of the question in the wet season but there is a magical feeling as we start to climb the stairs in the mist and rain.

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Wet llamas guide us up to the Guard House!

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BikesnBeers reaches Machu Picchu – what a milestone!

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The “terraces” seem to go on forever!

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The stones were cut to fit together without mortar – a masonry technique mastered by the Incas.

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The rain clears and the clouds move on to reveal the true magic of Machu Picchu!

Historians believe Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries and was abandoned an estimated 100 years after its construction. This is the time the Spanish started coming but there is no evidence that the conquistadors ever attacked or even reached the mountaintop. However, some have suggested that the residents’ desertion occurred because of a smallpox epidemic!

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The stonework, terraces and sophisticated irrigation system show the Inca’s architectural and engineering genius.

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Such fun playing with the llamas!

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One of those shots where the clouds part and one hundred cameras go “click”!!

We come down the mountain and it’s time to leave – the images of this “wonder” and the emotion we feel being at this iconic landmark will stay with us forever! We leave Santa Maria in perfect riding conditions with a clear and dry ride over the 4300m pass – it’s a total joy to do this road again. Once we get past Urubamba the road opens out onto a large plateau – with views to snow-capped peaks and wide open spaces.

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BikesnBeers “makes” it onto the petrol bowser at Ayaviri!

We come down in to Puno on Lake Titicaca and the weather is perfect – so we organise a late
tour to the “floating” Uros Islands – which sit a few kilometres offshore. The islands and the buildings on them are constructed entirely of reeds that grow in the lake.

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The boat trip out to the islands passes through fields of reeds – around 2,000 people live out here!

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The reeds the islands are made of need to be continually replaced – as the ones at the bottom rot away.

We listen to a talk on how the islands are constructed and are offered their handicrafts to buy – it’s all clearly a big “show” – but it allows them to keep their traditions and if it wasn’t for the tourists, these people would be much poorer and would probably have had to move to the mainland.

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Crossing in to Bolivia is easy and we stop for lunch at Copacabana – with perfect weather for the ride around the lake on a magnificent stretch of road!

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Lake Titicaca is like a millpond – the world’s highest navigable lake at 3800m.

Hold on to your bikes going across - and then try and reverse out!

Interesting ferry crossing – hold on to your bikes going across – and then try and reverse out!

We press on to La Paz – where the roadworks are relentless and the city is huge – time for oil-changes and a day off!

On Two Wheels

We met Kalil and Hans at the border coming in to Peru, met up for a few beers in Trujillo and find Kalil again in La Paz. They came through the massive roadworks to the north of the city during a storm and Kalil’s bike takes in water driving through a flash flood (the air intake on the BMW is just above the piston and only half a metre from the ground)!  The water causes his connection rods to bend – which means a full engine rebuild – time and money – and that’s if you can get the parts to Bolivia! So Hans moves south on his own and Kalil finds a buyer for his bike…and a change of plans for his continued holiday!

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This Bolivian got a VERY good deal getting Kalil’s BMW1200GS!                                          (Thanks to Kalil for this photo)

Tip of the Day

If you fill your bike up in the woop-woops on a Sunday – realise that sometimes the parents have gone “walkabout” and left the kids in charge of the pumps!!

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The look of concentration is so cute!

 

Story of the Week

We have opted to come to Machu Picchu the long way – storing our bikes in Santa Maria and taking a “collectivo” to Santa Teresa – but when we arrive in the tiny town our driver discovers the raging river has taken the bridge out which we need to get across to get to the train station at Hidro-Electrica!! He takes another road, down to the river and we meet up with a chaotic crowd of tourists – some making decisions and some not – but it seems a throng of people are walking through the bush to the river, so we follow!

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The “things” you do!!

They are letting three to four of us at a time over a footbridge, then up a steep, muddy bank to some more “collectivos” that have been trapped across the river – with another sludgy shared ride to the train station.

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The ticket office closes as we approach the train and they won’t let us on – no amount of cajoling is going to work – so it leaves the station! We have no choice but to roll up our trousers and walk the fifteen kilometres to Aguas Calientes!!

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The track follows the raging river through a massive gorge.

We pass many backpackers going both ways and finally the day dies and we are in the pitch black with several very wet tunnels to go through – thank goodness for the phone torch!! The lights of the town suddenly appear and we feel like we’ve arrived in an oasis – it’s another “tourist” town with all the trimmings! We find a reasonable hostel and decide on a celebration meal with a bottle of red – this is momentus on all accounts – we have reached one of the great wonders of the world – and in a challenging way to boot! Should we have just caught the train from Cusco? Not on your Nellie – it’s all part of the adventure!!

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34 Comments

  1. Dave March 12, 2016 at 6:30 am

    What an adventure!! So glad you got to Machu Picchu one of my fav’s pain with all the rain but great to see those rivers flowing like that!! Still loving your tales!! Take care xxx

    • Lee March 12, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      Thanks mate! Hope the wedding was a huge success – sorry we missed it – would have been awesome to catch up with everyone! xxxxx

  2. Aynsley March 9, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Love that waterfront property!

    • Lee March 10, 2016 at 1:51 am

      You’ve gotta love it hey?! Must be worth a bomb! Loving Argentina…. xxxx

  3. Vida Fiser March 8, 2016 at 1:52 am

    Hi Lee, what an amazing journey you two are having! Machu Picchu and geoglyphs photos are spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing your memories with all of us. Happy travelling!

    • Lee March 9, 2016 at 1:49 am

      Hey Vida, glad you are enjoying it! Can’t believe we are nearly there!! Hope to catch up soon xxxx

  4. alison morgan March 5, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Unreal Lee,learnt more about the world with your blogs than I have ever known ,do love the look on the little girls face pouring the fuel .The views must have been amazing.Not long to go now I just home after 3 months away very quite. Lots of love and enjoy the last month x

    • Lee March 5, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Thanks Al, we still can’t quite believe what we’ve done!! The kids were just priceless – she couldn’t actually see in to my tank and overfilled it!! Sounds like you have some adjusting to do too!! xxxx

  5. Bruce Newey March 4, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    What a great trip! Whats next? Probably just relax for a few months. Fantastic blog.

    • Lee March 5, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks Cuz! I reckon…it will be a bit of adjustment for sure!! How’s that grandbaby?! xxxx

  6. carolyn March 3, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Another great read Lee. Just amazing. Looking forward to hopefully catching up with you in Brisbane on your return. and hearing more stories. We arrive April 12th.
    Safe travels and love to you both

    • Lee March 4, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Let’s hope we do see you in Brissie – that would be awesome! Big hugs xxxx

  7. Emma March 3, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Lee, another great blog! I am going to miss my travelling fix when they stop – bring on the NZ adventure! Em x

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      Thanks Ems! Looking forward to a catchup soon – home next month!! xxxx

  8. Toni Butler March 3, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Never fails to impress, that part of the world. I laughed at the parents leaving the kids to ‘mind the shop’ – I had to do that when I was about 15….

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Hey you two! The little girl couldn’t see in to my tank so she overfilled it!! How’s KL? You should get hold of our friend Feizal and organise some riding..https://www.facebook.com/malaysian.getaways?fref=ts Great bunch of guys who just love riding. Feizal was the instigator for our trip!

  9. Gerry Sokolik March 3, 2016 at 7:23 am

    What a great Blog Post! I did Machu Pichu as one of my “bucket list” trips a few years ago and although I took the train from Cusco it was still one of my favorite trips. Not sure when I’ll be in Brisbane again but when I get there I’d love to take you two to dinner an perhaps after a few bottles of red I can hear some stories that didn’t get included in the blog. Haven’t seen Ansley or CT since we missed the two of you in Nicaragua. Safe travels and keep the blogs coming.

    Gerry

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Cheers Gerry! Most definitely would love to share some stories – and the few bottles of red sound like a fine idea!! Machu Picchu is such a magic place and one that is on most people’s “radar” – sounds like you have some stories up your sleeve as well!

  10. Colleen March 3, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Another inspiring leg of your journey. I’m going to miss my history & geography lessons with your gift for story telling. Perhaps you will keep blogging just with a different flavour. I’m sure there are more adventures ahead. Keep safe

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks Colleen – we are already planning bringing the bikes to N.Z.!! We’ve heard there’s a good spot to stay above the shop at Waipu Cove!! xxxx

  11. Sue March 3, 2016 at 3:59 am

    WOW repeated several times!!!! Such adventures and as always, fabulous photos. We are exploring Taranaki just now- very very tame by comparison. Love you. XOSue

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 11:58 am

      Hey you two – Taranaki sounds lovely and I guess there’s snow on the mountain this time of year! Home is getting very close now – should be in Argentina within a week – can you believe it?! Love and hugs xxxx

  12. Chelsea March 3, 2016 at 2:46 am

    Did you walk up or catch the bus?!

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:36 am

      Hey Little One! Most definitely caught the bus up!! We thought of you being “first” up as we turned each hairpin! My feet started to struggle as it was with walking round the site after the big walk! Such an awesome place hey xxxx

  13. Beverley March 3, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Wow! The adventures continue. What resourcefulness. You made it up the mountain!

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:33 am

      We did Bev! I think deep down we all aspire to see Machu Picchu – it was definitely a very powerful place! It’s countdown now with 8,000km to go!! xxxx

  14. Raewyn March 3, 2016 at 2:39 am

    And the adventures continue!!! Another great and “welcomed” post-it’s always such a treat to hear from you.

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:31 am

      Thanks Rae – neat to hear from you too! Peru has been a real treat in so many ways. Looking forward to getting home to “good” wifi so we can skype regularly xxxxx love to everyone

  15. Annie March 3, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Awesome blog! Lee your photos are just amazing and what a story to tell about missing a train!
    Love you both xxxxx

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:26 am

      Hi BFITWWW! It is a great story – made the “arrival” even more special. Our dinner was near an open fireplace at our backs with a live band out front – very memorable! Home next month xxxx

  16. Phil and Evol Prince March 3, 2016 at 1:11 am

    Wow what a spectacular experience. Your emotions must have been in overdrive. Machu Picchu – a must see.

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:21 am

      The ride up there was just awesome, Phil, a very memorable piece of road! I think Machu Picchu is a place we all think about going to – we are still pinching ourselves.

  17. Daisy March 2, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Great photos Lee!

    • Lee March 3, 2016 at 3:18 am

      Thanks Daisy! Looking forward to getting home soon and can’t wait to see your house xxxx

Comments are closed.