Machu Picchu – Cusco

It’s a mistake to think of Cusco as small. It’s small in the sense that it’s not Lima, but as far as historical site jumping off cities go, this one is pretty damn nice. Most of the time those types of places are miserable, and not deserving of much sightseeing, but that is not the case with Cusco. It is rich with history. It’s definitely one of those places where you feel like you’ve gone back in time. I was very impressed, and if it wasn’t for the unbelievably sad situation with the women on the street corners asking if you wanted masssgeeees, I would recommend it as a stand alone city.

Point being, this city has cobblestone streets, and outrageously old squares. It’s got restaurant patios all around and people hawking their wares. It’s got some style that you don’t expect. BUT, it does have those problems creeping in.

How can that many women be asking for massages in a town like this? Imagine that happening in Florence. That’s what this was like. This place is too old and quaint for shit like that to be going on. Also, why let so many cars drive around. It’s ridiculous. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but with the super high altitude and super thin air it’s like all you were breathing was exhaust. At least have some god damn strict emissions standards for f’s sake.

In any case, I loved this town, despite its issues. They are nominal compared to most places. The fireworks you randomly hear are cool, the fried guinea pig entrees are cool, the weather is fun, the let’s eat chicken for every meal thing is cool, and of course, Machu Picchu is cool.

Now Machu Picchu is kind of a bitch, at least in the rainy season, which of course is when I went (February). During the rainy season they will not start the trains in Poroy (about a 25 minute cab ride from the Cusco city center), no, they want to start the trains in Ollantaytambo, about 100 minutes from the Cusco city center. So you can take a bus for about 40 soles (about 3.5 to 1 while I was there) or a private car for about 140 soles. I chose the car. BUT, that means after your excruciatingly long taxi ride, you have to get on a train. Now this train must be booked well in advance. I found most of the passengers to be pretty ruthless about embarkation and disembarkation, like get the f out of my way this is MY train. So your ticket grants you an additional 90 minute ride to Machu Picchu station. You’re there right? Wrong, very wrong.

Now you have to find your entry ticket, and your bus ticket. Oh yes you can walk up, but it’s like 2 hours up and 90 minutes down, so give me the 120 sole round trip bus ticket, it’s 25 minutes and they leave constantly. Now finding the bus ticket was relatively easy as the guy pointed to the river and that’s where I went, but signs are hard to come by and you will quickly realize that they don’t want you to find shit. They want you to get lost in their maze of trinket shops and bar and grills. I found my way, but not without a fair amount of snarling.

And oh yeah, it rains without warning. Be prepared. I brought my snowboard jacket which was soooo helpful, but mostly people just bought ponchos. It also gets cold and hot, so that’s something too. Not an easy place to get to or prepare for, but perhaps that’s what makes it so special 🙂

That’s the gist isn’t it. This place is hard to find. It’s frustrating and pricey and daunting and everything else, but when you are standing there, and the sun comes out, I challenge you to find something that’s more awe inspiring. You may find its match, and maybe I even have, but I’d be hard pressed to say that something was moooore impressive. This place is cool. And the fact that they built it at all just amazes me. It’s simply amazing.

Notes to self:

-The Incan point is a bitch of a walk but I felt glad for having done it. They make you log your name in before leaving, presumably so they will quickly know if you have died or not, but a little danger makes it all the more exciting. It ends in a wooden bridge that you wouldn’t walk across even if they let you 🙂
-I did not get a tour but I would actually recommend one (guides are waiting at the entrance). I don’t understand centuries old places thinking they don’t need a plaque or two. History needs and deserves explanation. It does not explain itself. Yes, I’m also looking at you Athens.
-Ollantaytambo is actually a really cool looking place. I wish I had gotten there a half hour or an hour early. Shopping and street food looked amazing.
-Machu Picchu station is also a pretty cool town (where all trains let out). Plenty of restaurants and shops. Some are obviously tourist trap type places, but being next to that raging river is neat for even the most extreme of dullards.
-I took the Vistadome train. The Hiram whatever is like 4 times the price and the basic train looked pretty miserable honestly. the Vistadome was modern and comfortable. The attendants were nice and you got a free meal and drinks each way. Plus, there are windows all around, and the views of the river and mountains can be stunning. That amazingly fast and violent river was mesmerizing to me.
-Total sidebar, but I was so pissed at how many things were charged in American dollars. What the fuck do my dollars have to do with you! I mean I get it, but the exchange rate was particularly good this time around, and it’s ridiculous to not be able to take advantage of it. It doesn’t matter one bit to them, and I bet when the dollar comes down they switch back to their own currency. The Machu Picchu tickets should not be in dollars! The fucking Lima airport should not charge for beers in dollars! Ugh!!!
-The Cusco airport itself is super sweet and so easy. I mean it doesn’t have many amenities but getting in and out is super smooth, and they have bars/restaurants right before security (I mean literally 10 steps) so you can chill and pick your spot if the line gets long, which it never seems to so you can chill right up until your flight. It was a welcome surprise for an airport of that size. I paid 40 soles for the cab ride from the airport, and 25 going to…that fucker. When am I going to learn to suggest half of whatever they say first. Half. Stop being a taxi bitch! 🙂


Hotels

Palacio Del Inka (Feb. 2016)