Cusco, Peru to Copacabana, Bolivia
Sep 13, 2014 – Sep 21, 2014
Wolf on railsAfter a few relaxing days playing with baby llamas and drinking mate de coca in Cusco, the Zebra and I were ready to climb Machu Picchu. My plan, for I must confess the Zebra was not completely on board, was to ride the Wolfmobile to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. Two hurdles stood in our way: the first one, fairly minor, was the Abra Malaga pass (4320m), the second one, only a railroad enters Aguas Calientes. Naturally I was not concerned, riding a few kilometers on railroad tracks has never been a problem.
We left Cusco on the morning of September 16 following the shortest route plotted by our trusted GPS. Less than 30 minutes later we reached Huarocondo and made a right turn onto a gravel road. “Here we go again!” thought a very consternated Zebra. For our entertainment, the usually smooth CU-110 hwy was under heavy construction at that time and it took us a solid hour, several U-turns and a few jumps over stubborn boulders to reconnect with pavement shortly before Ollantaytambo.
After a delicious lunch at Coca Mama we headed for the Abra Malaga pass. Soon thereafter clouds either descended upon us or we climbed into them. The result was the same, our fingers got numb, our visors became opaque and our descent into Santa Maria was miserable, albeit gorgeous
It was close to 9pm when we reached Hidro-electrica, a large hydro electric plant that marks both the road’s end and the beginning of the railroad to Aguas Calientes. A few drunk but very friendly taxi drivers were hanging out in the parking lot. They wished us a warm welcome, listened to our plan with interest and thumped it with bad news. They informed us that the access to Aguas Calientes was guarded by a police station, a military outpost, 2 switchbacks and the dinky Puente San Miguel. They insisted that continuing by foot was our best bet. No need to tell you that I was VERY upset. (And the Zebra was rather relieved, despite the news we’d have to hike 2 hours in the dark) Riding the Wolfmobile on the railroad until the police station was a reasonable consolation. We left our DR with the friendly owner of the restaurant by the railroad, and followed the tracks into the night weighed down by our riding gear, finally collapsing in the relative comfort of the hospedaje Los Caminantes at midnight.
Machu PicchuCured of my rebelliousness for at least a day, the Zebra and I dragged our weary bodies out of bed at 5am to join hundreds of other tourists waiting in lines to marvel at the Inca estate. Despite our lack of sleep, we enjoyed a full day exploring the ruins. The highlight of our experience was doubtless hiking the “Montaña”, one of the peaks towering over Machu Picchu at 3082m. You can count on at least 2 hours to reach the summit, the steep cobblestone stairs are not for the faint of heart, or faint of legs.
We meandered the narrow alleys and broad terraces of the village for several hours before making our way back to Aguas Calientes. There, we hoped onto the Vistadome train for a plush and scenic ride back the Wolfmobile. As we were leaving the heavens opened and dumped several tons of water on us, leaving us totally drenched as we climbed back up the Abra Malaga pass, making the return to Cusco one of the colder rides to date.
Farewell PeruPeter, Sean, Markos and us got together at la Caverne del Oriente, a delicious French-peruvian restaurant, for our last dinner together. We fondly remembered the adventures we shared and promised to stay in touch.
The next day the Zebra and I left Cusco behind for Bolivia, with a scheduled pit stop in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Puno turned out to be rather disappointing, dirty blocks of concrete hastily stacked up on the shores of the lake in vain bids to capture the amazing views. We pushed forward and had the good fortune of finding the gorgeous Posada Santa Barbara in Chucuito. Run by two Italo-peruvian brothers, the posada is built on a gentle slope that overlooks lake Titicaca. In the evening the two brothers put on their chef hats and cooked the best “Pasta a la carbonara” we’ve had in a long time. They told us how their father moved to Peru over 20 years ago and built the stone posada with his own hands, it was a fascinating story and the kind of warm vibe we needed before entering Bolivia and what would happen to be the worst border crossing of our trip.
In our last kilometers in Peru, we stopped by Aramu-muru, a mysterious portal to another dimension. Several hippies were having a ceremony lead by a local who undoubtedly charged them a fortune for some canned spirituality. More interesting were the many fuel jugs and bottles lining the road to the border. Bolivia subsidises fuel resulting in some of the lowest prices in South America giving locals a chance to make a buck by re-selling Bolivian fuel with a razor thin margin in Peru. We witnessed a similar trade on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.