May 26, 2008 GMT
Peru (Part 2)

Next day we are up early and on our way to Nasca.

This is a long day sticking to the Pan am but fairly successful. Along the road we can see the visable evidence of the earthquake that hit this area in 2007. There are miles and miles of rubble where houses used to be.


We pass through the wide open valley where the nasca lines are. It is a huge open space and no lines can be seen except from in the air.



Unfortunately budget dictates and we miss out on a flight seeing tour of the nasca lines. Reaching the town we find a good hotel straight away and get checked in. Later that evening we do some research on line regarding Machu picchu tours and have a meal.

Next day we start it the right way with breakfast. They have a spread of strange food laid out for breakfast. Deciding to stick with the toast I proceed to put a piece of half toasted cold bread through the toaster machine only to be told by the waitor that I cannot do this beacuse it is already toasted. I explain that it is cold and not toasted properly- he insists it is hot and that I cannot use the machine. Great - I'l just starve then beacuse of stupid pedantic peruvian rules.

Frustrated we check out and get on the road heading towards Cusco inland.

The road is another tough Mountain road which twists around with steep drop offs and no barriers. It is pretty slow going and sitting on the back, I am starting to feel the familiar sickness. It takes us a while to get anywhere and is pretty hard going. Although the road itself is tarmac it is in a terrible state on the first section with giant pot holes. However later on it improves, mainly beacuse it has to as Cusco is the main tourist spot in Peru.


We stop at every opportunity to top up with fuel, just in case we get caught out. Some stretches of the road are really desserted with nothing but views.


The views really are very special, I am having to work the gearbox hard on the twisty road that just climbs to the heavens, then all of a sudden the scene opens up and you honestly feel like your riding across the top of the world.


We pass small remote villages, small children in brightly coloured dress with red faces wave at us frantically and are beside themselves when we slow down and wave back.


The only vehicles we see are the odd truck, I usually exchange a nod with the driver - a kind of mutual respect thing - as we both understand the risks of being on this particular road.


Stopping at about 5.30pm in a small town for fuel we are beseiged by 15 or so young guys crowding around us just staring. Finally getting on our way we know that we have at least 3 hours yet to ride and there is nowhere to stop on the way. We make the difficult decision to keep heading towards Cusco knowing we would arrive in the dark- not a decision taken lightly but with not much option- as long as we have fuel. Oh god I can feel another Huaraz coming on...

Leaving the fuel stop I really get a wriggle on, trying to make the best of the remaining light, thankfuly the road is well surfaced but so, so twisty meaning progress is slow. As we switch back up the mountain side the sun is going down behind us - I know that once we get on the other side of the mountain we will lose the daylight and with no light pollution out here, when its dark its really dark.

We make really good progress but as expected the light slowly fades just as we hit slightly better roads. Its about an hour and a half to Cusco, but we are taking no chances - we keep our speed to the minimum and just pick our way through the blackness.

Riding at night in Peru is pretty terrifying as you have all the usual hazards like potholes and dogs you just can't see them properly. We manage to follow a truck for a while and use him as our sweeper. He turns out to be local and turns off the road after 15mins or so. We struggle on alone. Every truck we overtake I wave to just in case we need them to stop later on and help us.

It seems to take forever to get there and is truly terrifying, not something I ever want to repeat.

We get into town and inevitably get lost as it is even more confusing in the dark. Finally we find a Hotel, once again the local hospitality is heartwarming and very genuine. They have no parking for the bike but insist we put it in their boiler room adjacent to the restaurant, its now about 9.30pm.

Stumbling into our room, we order some food as we are both starving and a large hot drink marks the end to another hard day. 407 miles today in 15 hours of virtually non stop riding. And we thought Mexico was tough...

(What a road though...DH)

Next day we get up early and I finalise our tour plans. We had arranged to go on a City Tour of Cusco later today and Macchu Pichu tomorrow. As we were short on time and budget we decided to book the tour and enjoy being tourists for a change and let someone else have the stress of driving!

We get some sleep then wait in Reception for the tour bus collection at 2pm. The city tour turns out to be a good one and we first visit the Cathedral in town which is a Spanish Colonial Church built on Incan ruins.


The tour by a great guide is fun and enjoyable, interesting and more of a whistle stop tour of Cusco. As we are entering the Basillica Cathedral there is a guy taking pictures of everyone, I thought it was a toy camera and we don't pay him much attention. The Cathedral is beautiful inside and very ornate with some stunning paintings. It is now that I wish I had more time- I could have spent a day in here looking at all the fascinating altars and art.

Next we head for some ruins just out of town called Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy woman) which are really interesting. There is also a great view of Cusco from here.



Em and I have been lucky enough to visit Egypt, to me these ruins rival the great pyramids at Giza - try as you might you cannot get your head around the fact that these people transported, shaped and fitted together, all these massive multi angled rocks - perfectly, as in fag paper acurate. What makes it more interesting is that the multi angles on the rocks mean that the whole structure fits together like a giant jigsaw puzzle - making it earthquake proof. The question on everybodys lips was the same "how did they..."


On the way back to the bus we get accosted by ladies selling hats and gloves. We also find out we have been 'papped' by the photographer at the Cathedral and our picture made into a postcard! I had to buy it of course!!

Next up we head up to see an Incan built water stop on an Incan trail at Tambomachay. Then on to a cave with an altar stone.

On the way back into town we stop off for some shopping in an Alpaca Factory. We get taught the difference between different types of alpaca wools and get a free cup of Coca tea. (Coca tea from the cocaine plant - tastes slightly minty and gives you a bit of a buzz- illegal to import for obvious reasons).

think the tea went to my head...

We head back to our hotel and get an early night ready for an early start in the morning.

We are up at 4.30am and after breakfast we get collected at 5.30am by our tour guide. As we booked last minute it meant that we could only get seats on the Vistadome train service from Ollataytambo, so our tour company drops us there.

As we go to get on the train with our tickets the conductor demands to see our passports for ID. We explain that we don't have our passports and that no-one told us they were needed. Our passport numbers are on the tickets themselves, is that not good enough? Apparently they need ID to check the ticket is in your name- another stupid, pedantic peru rule. This place is starting to get really annoying!!

Finally we find an old AA card in Darren's 'muggers' wallet (wallet with expired cards which will look like a prize to a mugger) with my name on it and an old visa card with Darren's on- the guard accepts these and we are allowed on. As we wait for our train in the waiting room our driver from the tour company comes running in he had spoken to our hotel and got our passports faxed across to him from our Hotel in Cusco. (you have to give your passport for copies to the Hotel so as not to pay tax).


We get on the train and are made up to find that we have front seats and the best view of the stunning mountains. We get served sandwiches and cake and in an hour and a half are at the Bus station in Aguas Caliente.


It is here that we meet our guide for Machu Picchu and jump on the bus. It takes about 20 mins to get to the top.

I could not believe our luck with the seats, an American couple behind us are miffed because they booked months ago and didn't get the front seats - just to antagonise them I shout loudly to Em that these seats are great especially as we only booked 24hrs ago..

The bus ride to Machu Picchu was not as bad as I expected - I had read that it was fairly scary, but the reality is that after the roads we have rode on recently - this was no great shakes, the views were amazing however.

Road up the mountain

Its now around 10am as we pass through the turnstyles and get our first view of Machu Picchu, it doesn't disappoint. We had come prepared with jumpers, waterproofs etc. due to the fact we are visiting out of season, but we are blessed - the sun is out and there is not a cloud in the sky as we start the tour.


In fact, after about an hour I can feel myself getting burnt, our guide then looks up and spots a Condor. She starts shouting to all the other tour guides pointing the bird out to them, she then explains to us that this is really lucky. The Condor represents the heavens or afterlife in Incan culture and to spot one today over the ruins we are told is rare.


I think back to the front row train seats, the amazing weather, no crowds and give the giant bird a nod, thanks fella. We have just the one day to enjoy the site and had put a large part of our budget for South America aside for it - I was so glad that we were able to see it for what it is, without bad weather or crowds of people.


A very special day in a very special place.

With the time up with our tour guide, we stop for lunch in the restaurant and as we eat I notice the clouds rolling in. Within ten minutes the heavens open and I look out to the queue of people entering the site - how lucky were we..

After lunch we brave the odd shower to take one last look around and climb up the dilapidated stairs to the Watchmans Tower at the very top of the site. This is the famous picture everyone likes to get when visiting here.


We sit on a step for 15 mins and drink in the view, this place is awesome and really peaceful, you just don't want to leave.



The train journey on the way back to Cusco was very entertaining, not only were the views stunning but the cabin staff put on a show. First up was the guy in local costume carrying a toy Alpaca for people to stroke, then came the fashion show with the train ailse used as a runway for the modelling of garments made from Alpaca wool. The four hour trip flew by and eventually we came into Cusco, tired but with another box well and trully ticked.


Posted by Darren Homer at May 26, 2008 02:50 PM GMT

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