31.10.2013 - 06.11.2013
This is a story of how my friends and I hacked Machu Picchu
Every year, Machu Picchu brings in thousands of travelers from all over the world. However, most people don't realize that Machu Picchu is crazy expensive until the last minute (entrance ticket alone costs $45). The Inca Trail, the four-day hike that everyone takes from Cusco, costs around $500 - $600. Consciousness travelers on a budget skip the Inca Trail and take the train, which alone costs around $130 round-trip. Well, my friends and I hacked this system and got to Machu Picchu for only $24.94 .
BUT FIRST, a little background info.
After about a week of going to the hospital and uncomfortably observing burnt patients, I decided to find another place to volunteer. Perhaps it's a bad reflection on my character for starting something challenging and not finishing it. But as I'm sure you could tell from my previous post - I wasn't a very pleasant place...
Instead, I found a volunteer position at a children's home working with kids -- something I have lots of experience doing.
Other volunteers from different countries were also volunteering at the children's home, so I was able to make some new friends. On my second day there, I asked the other volunteers if any of them had gone to Machu Picchu - about a day away from La Paz. One of the Belgian volunteers told me that he was going with some friends in two days, and invited me to come along.
Even though it was only my second time meeting this dude and I hadn't even met his friends yet, I said yes because I assumed that I wouldn't have another chance. It was really spur of the moment. Living on the edge. It's funny, on my second day volunteering at the children's home I was already asking for time off to go to Peru with my new frendz.
We met at the Laz Paz bus terminal and took the overnight bus to Cusco. Beside my Belgian friend and me, our group also consisted of a girl from Quebec and a German guy who also lived in Belgium. Except for me, everyone in the group spoke French. It was Japan all over again.
The first part of the journey out of La Paz and into the Bolvian altiplano (plateau) was flat, brown, and pretty ugly.
Это Боливия, детка!
When we arrived in Cusco, we bought $7 tickets for a local bus to take us to a town called Santa Maria, 6 hours away. Beside my frendz and me, all of the passengers on the train were indigenous Peruvians.
This time, the view had completely changed and we were driving past green fields that were surrounded by towering Andes mountains.
The views just got better and better the further we got.
Until finally, the the road became narrower, went even higher into the mountains, and the guardrails suddenly disappeared. Driving in a huge bus on roads like this was pretty freaky - but the views were absolutely majestic!
After finally arriving in Santa Maria six hours later, we were immediately offered to be taken in a car-turned-taxi to the hydroelectric plant, the next stop on our hacking-Machu-Picchu-journey, for $5 per person. I guess many people take this road to hack Machu Picchu, because the drivers know exactly were to take you. I loved the fact that the diver squeezed in eight people into his five-seater car.
Cars can only go until the hydroelectric plant because that's where the road ends. The closest village to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) is completely surrounded by jungle and getting there is only possible by rail. But, we are hacking Machu Picchu, so instead of spending money on the expensive train, we walked along the train tracks for 2.5 hours.
Getting ready to walk on train tracks...
...because Peruvian trains are expensive.
I never realized how difficult it is to walk on train tracks. You can't really walk on on the rail because you keep losing your balance, and walking on ballast (railroad rocks) hurts your feet. Also, looking at the track for more than a couple of minutes begins to hurt your head...
The jungle was amazing though...
We arrived at the village 2.5 hours later and went to see Machu Picchu itself the next morning. Machu Picchu is on top of this really high hill, and although there is a bus that takes you there for $10, we were hacking, so we hiked.
In hindsight, perhaps taking a bus up the mountain was a better idea, because the hike up the mountain to see Machu Picchu was the
hardest hike of my life.
And I don't even know why! I'm a fit guy who stays active and eats relatively well. I easily climbed Mount Fuji in Japan, which has a higher altitude than Machu Picchu. But climbing to Machu Picchu from the village was DEATH.
I couldn't stop panting and sweating and feeling out of breath every 3 minutes. What sucked was that my frendz just walked past as if it were the easiest mountain ever. One of the guys was a smoker, smoking cigs as he climbed, and STILL climbed faster than me. The only logical explanation I can think of is that I wasn't acclimatized to the altitude, like my friends were. Actually, I just don't want to admit that I'm out of shape. Thus, I blame the altitude.
The views were amazing though - just like everywhere else. But on top of the mountain especially!
Doing a victory pose after reaching the top - even though I am physically broken.
And then, as we walked through the gate, we saw it. Machu Picchu. The reason for my pain. The reason for our hackery.
Yay, we made it!
I don't know where I got the energy to jump after all the pain I just went through.
A Peruvian man approached us and offered to give us a tour for money. I didn't want it but my frendz did, so we agreed. You know what I learned from the insightful tour? Absolute nothing. I don't remember anything the guide said - which is exactly why I don't like tours. The only reason I remember that we took a tour is because it reminded me why I don't take tours.
Taking photos is much better.
Then you can use Wikipedia to learn about the place. This way, you'll actually remember the information. And it's free.
Next, we decided to climb the mountain behind the site to see Machu Picchu from above. Even though I had almost died on the climb up to Machu Picchu, I went with them to climb 1000 meters higher. What a masochist I am.
Climbing up mountains when you haven't acclimatized is brutal - but I did it! When we reached the top of the second mountain, I was physically broken (again).
Hmm, maybe I was being punished with severe altitude problems for hacking Machu Picchu...
Well, regardless, I still did it. And I had a great time with my frendz and paid significantly less than most travellers. Even though it physically broke me twice
Photo after I had recuperated: