(110) From the Surreal to the Serene
After a week of fun cycling with Amanda we finally had the perfect opportunity to visit one of the worlds new seven wonders Machu Picchu and I felt lucky to have someone to share it with. With another week left we would still have time to ride our bikes and climb some more passes. I just hoped it would be as fun for her in her second week as it was in our first.
Thursday 21st May
Having two days off to see Machu Picchu was exiting and I couldn’t wait to get up and have breakfast. I joined Amanda in the courtyard where we quickly had something to eat and packed a small bag before we were collected around 7.20am and taken to a pick up point.
The incredible views on the way to Machu picchu
We met up with a few others and soon set off on the long trip to Hydroelectrica where we would be dropped off for the 2-3 hour walk to the village of Aguascalientes. After waiting a while we were soon on a loaded bus heading north west out of the city. After a couple climbs which we would be riding on the bike we turned off and headed off towards Santa Maria. In a way we wished we had ridden the road as it was incredible but with the time limitations it was to risky to chance. With a great view from the bus we descended to Ollemtamba to then start the long climb up Abra Malaga. It seemed to take ages to reach the top and even longer to descend the other side. At the bottom we stopped for lunch and although it had been a stunning road it would have taken us a lot longer to reach by bike then we first thought making the trip on the tour much more satisfying. We set off again shortly after lunch and reached Santa Maria which from this point joined a dirt road. This looked more like the death road with the vertical cliffs and drop off’s all on a busy road. By this point we’d both had enough of hair pin bends and bad roads but it wasn’t going to be over for a while yet. Eventually we did reach hydroelectrica where we disembarked the van and begin the walk.
I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying I think she said shall we run it but no it couldn’t have been 🙂
At this point we could have caught the train but with it being 2-3 hours of walking along the railway track with the high cliffs on each side we knew it would be a great walk. The railway line followed the river, crossing it at times which made it more fun.
Amanda quite nervous as I kept telling her a train was coming
And again in the tunnel
I did say there was a train coming
Restaurants and shops lined the platform for ages
It was a strange and surreal place with bars, shops and restaurants all lining the platform that seemed to go on forever and being now dark was like a weird wonderland reminiscent of something off the polar express or lion witch and the wardrobe. We joined up with an Israeli guy who while Amanda stayed in the main square we went to check into our hostel. When we arrived we were told we weren’t staying and needed to go back. This didn’t sound good. We arrived back at the square and were then shown to another place that was not as nice as what we had been sold. With quite a discussion with the organiser and then having to wait until 9pm before we could eat wasn’t a great end to the day. With the food being ok but then being given tickets dated for a different day then tomorrow we wondered weather it was all going to go wrong. Being tired and needing to get up early we headed back to our rooms get some sleep ready for the big climb in the morning.
Friday 22nd May
With the alarm going off at 3.45am it reminded me of my climb with Steve. Although it was a day off we would be climbing up from Aquas Calientes to the ruins of Machu Picchu. With breakfast already made we left the hostel around 4,30am and walked the 2km down to the bridge. By this point there was around 50 people waiting to be let in and all we could do at this point was wait and yawn constantly. At around 5am the guards arrived and started to check tickets and letting people in and start the long climb to the top. Without battering an eyelid about the date on our tickets we were let through and off up the stone steps. Very quickly we started to pass couples bent over from the effort of being at altitude or just being unfit. I felt for them but felt great we were both feeling so fit. By the time we reached the entrance we were the second to arrive giving us a good chance of taking a picture of the site with no one there. After a 30 minute wait we were let through and made our way up into the huge terraces that looked down over this spectacular site.
This was the point at which we first got to see this famous sight
The size of the stones and how well they fitted was incredible
And the work involved in building the terraces on such steep ground
Although the Llamas didn’t seem to be that bothered with the place
It was incredible and more impressive then I had ever imagined. With seeing so many pictures of this famous wonder that it’s easy to build up an expectation but just seeing where this city was built, how well preserved it is after so many years and still remained intact after so many earth quakes and the work and skill into the buildings was incredible. It was amazing that which ever position we stood in weather it from the pyramid, the terraces or the sun gate nothing took away it’s magnificence.
This was the view from the sun gate
After being up there since 6am we decided to descend back to the town to have lunch and catch the train back as a bit of a treat and to do something different. We reached the town by 11.30 giving us a couple hours to spare to take it easy in a restaurant having dinner and resting after the long climb and decent. With our train due in we made our way to the station and boarded the big blue diesel train.
Can’t be that hard its only forward and reverse 🙂
We set off down the valley giving us a different view of the way we had walked. It was amazing being aboard feeling the train rock from side to side then shunt back and forth as we made our way down the railed switchbacks. Even though it only lasted 45 minutes it was well worth the journey back to hydro electrica where we met up with our group for the long drive back. It was at this point I realised I had left my hat behind at the restaurant and contained money and my cash card then realisation hit me and I knew I had to return. We tried to think of different solutions but being on such a long trip I needed all of it. The only problem was we only had enough money for one ticket. Our guide explained to the guard that we would pay for the other ticket once we had reached town but were told that one of us would have to wait for the last train in an hour and then would be allowed on accompanied by the guard. With the little money I had left I brought a ticket back to Augas calientes while Amanda was held hostage by the conductor. The journey back seemed to take forever and no willing it on made any difference. This time the train journey wasn’t as exciting and I couldn’t wait to get off. After what felt like a lifetime I reached the town, jumped off the train and ran to the restaurant. I asked a staff member if they had seen my hat who then pointed to the door where my hat was hanging. The sense of relief was amazing and to see all was present and correct I gave him a tip to thank him then returned to the station to wait for Amanda.
I texted her to say I had got it and had a reply to say that the train was leaving soon.
Meanwhile back at the station where Amanda was being held the train was getting ready to leave, The guard was still counting money and she hadn’t even locked up. The guards started shouting at the lady to hurry up and at this point the train was now moving. Amanda was told to get on the train but was refused by the guard. With the lady and Amanda now running next to the train she was told to get on as the train was picking up speed.
After shouting at the guard Amanda was let on and a little overwhelmed by having to run with her captor. From here Amanda could relax and enjoy the train journey and just hope I would be there at the other end to meet her.
Amanda and the lads safely on the train
Oblivious to the excitement back at the station I enjoyed a lovely ice-cream, I think it was two favours if I remember rightly and went to buy two tickets to Ollantaytambo which at this point I was told I needed Amanda’s passport. With a text sent asking for the numbers all I could do now was wait.
Unable to buy 2 tickets without her passport was so frustrating and with only 4 seat left on the train I just had to wait. She arrived after a while and with the help of the nice conductor who had taken pity on our situation gave us a discounted tickets that was for the next train. We could at least get to Ollantaytambo and hopefully from there a bus to Cuzco but being finally on the train felt great and had been quite an adventure, we could now enjoy the ride and relax. With it now dark outside we rattled along the tracks being brought snacks and a drink when a guy dresses as a clown with a wolfs head appeared and started to do a traditional dance. We couldn’t believe it and what was happening. Needing volunteers to dance Amanda was soon dancing in the isle with a wolf/clown which was totally surreal and so funny.
Once back in her seat still clapping at the next dancer we sat stunned at our day. With the Wolf now gone a fashion show commenced with the male and female conductors walking up and down displaying local clothes and gifts. It was brilliant and so much fun and wondered what would be next. We reached the town of Ollantaytambo and again arrived in what felt like a cross between a victorian film set and a movie station with the old orange glow and people eating in nice restaurants and old trains and their nice carriages.
We left the train and made our way up through the markets and a guy approached us saying Cuzco, Cuzco. We said yes and were taken to a bus stop and sat in a van waiting for it to be filled. while we waited I noticed my phone was almost flat and so went to the building opposite to ask if I could charge it. They were more then happy and seeing them trying to put a shelving unit together I used the time to help them. With the shelves pretty much finished and them looking pretty happy our van was ready to leave for Cuzco. Although it was a much shorter journey back to Cuzco it still took a while but to be honest I think we needed the time to absorb what we had done in a day. Reaching the city we were let out to find our own way back. With enough charge on the phone we reached the hostel and went to bed exhausted but both grinning from what had to be the maddest day ever.
Saturday 23rd May
After a long and bazaar day I woke around 8,30am. Amanda was awake around the same time and both felt shattered. We went to have breakfast outside in the courtyard to find Silva and Marie had arrived from la Paz by bike. It was so lovely to see them and for Amanda to meet friends. With around 5 cyclists there all having different info we chatted about the road ahead, dangerous parts of the each country and what we were up to. We found out that the bike shop in the same street sold bike boxes for about £4 and although Amanda had hers at the bus station it would take quite a while to pick it up and bring it back. Deciding to save time we brought a box ready left it in the shed marked with her name and ready for packing. We set off around 11am which was later then we hoped but should give us enough time to get to Abancay in a few days. I set the GPS and started to make our way out of the city and over the pass. With it being so steep it felt more like La Paz then Cuzco. The road climbed to the pass at around 3,680metres which wasn’t to bad but it was the gradient that we found tough. Once over we enjoyed a nice descent back down to 3,400 metres and through a small town.
We would see pretty houses like these on the way
I tried to race the tuk tuks and reached a garage out the other side where Amanda got to speak to her daughter. We set off again and soon started to climb spotting a nice place off the highway to have lunch. With the sun out and laying on soft grass it felt an amazing place to stop. Once lunch was out the way we set off again to complete the next 330 metres of climbing to the summit.
Just a few metres to go
With a nice gentle climb we reached the summit at 3,713 around 4,15 pm and to find an incredible view. With snow capped mountains, green fields that clung to the hillside and the suns rays forming amazing scenes across the valley it felt magical. From this side it felt like a high mountain pass with the road twisting and turning down into the valley below and so we started to descend.
I think Amanda enjoyed the passes
It was beautiful to see the scenery change in the light as the sun got lower. With it almost being dark we picked up bread from a really lovely family shop and water from their tap and continued to descend. We rounded a corner to see the valley drop away in front if us and the hairpin bends start.And loved the descents
It was amazing to glide effortlessly around each bend but seeing the number of buildings in the valley we knew we needed to camp high. After a couple spots not being good enough we spotted an old barn with space in front of it which was perfect and so set up camp. With it now pretty much dark the lights lit up the valley like a fantasy world while the stars lit up the sky helped by a crescent moon it was stunning and with the silhouette of the jagged mountains separating the two we sat and just enjoyed it. With tea cooked complements of Charlie and his ration pack he gave me we were both nicely full and ready to catch up on some well needed sleep and another pass tomorrow. I did miss the rations Amanda had brought out as they were so tasty but with non left we went for the reserves which did us proud.
Sunday 24th May
Our amazing campspot
Being hidden in front of the barn and over looking the deep valley below was incredible. With the suns rays trying to reach our tents and lighting the valley and the mountains around was so nice. As the tents were covered in condensation we moved them into the sun along with ourselves to warm while we had breakfast.
Its ok we’re not lost
The bikes were soon packed and we headed off down the mountain. It was not only amazing to glide effortlessly down the mountain around the numerous switchbacks but also to see the massive grin on Amanda’s face as she experienced the descent of a mountain pass. We arrived in Limatambo and stopped to chat to a cyclist we had met in Cuzco. At this point we were at 2,600 metres and knew we had a 4,000 metre pass to climb. We knew that every metre we went down would be another up. Amanda told this to the guy and he suddenly looked depressed. Realising she had probably said the wrong thing we rode on and down. We crossed a couple rivers thinking at any point we would start to climb but we didn’t. We kept descending more and more often very steep dropping ever lower into the valley.
Dropping ever lower to the bridge
It wasn’t long before we were below 2000 metres and still dropping but at this altitude the temperature was rising and fast. The road started to level out around 1,900 and reached the main bridge at 1,880 metres leaving us 2,120 metes to climb to get over the pass.
A bridgman on an orange on an orange bridge
We stopped after the bridge where we picked up a drink and fruit for the climb ahead. It was here that we were swarmed by midges. They didn’t seem to bad at first but soon we realised we were rapidly becoming covered in small bites. The guy from the village soon arrived and told us he hadn’t enjoyed the descent because he knew he would have to climb. Amanda looking a little guilty said sorry and we said we would see him on the climb later. We headed off on the start of the climb only to find it drop again just above the height of the bridge. After about 8 miles we saw a road dropping down to the river around 300 metres below. Amanda said we better not be going down there only to find it was the road to the hot springs. It was somewhere we were planning on visiting but with it being around 35 degrees and both feeling incredibly hot we decided to ride on.
Climbing up way from the river
The climb proper started after another 2 miles and climbed steadily up. The views of the snow capped mountains after feeling so hot was mad.
It was so refreshing
We stopped a couple times on the climb to cool under waterfalls on the side of the road which was incredible and finally reached the small town of Curahuasi. By this point it was around 2pm and was a perfect place to have lunch. We opted for the menu which normally involves soup then meat and rice dish. By the reaction of Amanda the soup was the most tasty thing she had ever tasted. It was just what we needed and so set off again out of town and continued to climb.
The steep bits were always the toughest
After passing a landslide and a very steep section of road we rounded a corner at 3,000 metres to start up the next mountain section. By this point it was getting much cooler and making the going a little easier. The sun was getting low and knowing we wanted to try and get back to Cuzco the following day to make packing for Amanda easier we needed to get as high as possible to make tomorrow an easier day. The gradient was perfect and with a guy stopping to give us fruit gave us extra energy to continue to climb. Although it was a massive climb I couldn’t help but notice the massive grin on Amanda’s face and being overwhelmed by the view and the cars and trucks slowly winding their way up the pass way below us. By the time we reached 3,500 metres it was pretty much dark making the lights in the valley look more like a toy town.
Do we really have to stop?
Seeing Amanda still grinning from ear to eat I asked if she wanted to complete the pass in a day. By her response it was going to be a late night. She was in her element and it was not only a massive achievement to climb such a huge pass but to do it in one go after riding in such heat.
I think she would have ridden forever 🙂
With our lights on and the trucks, cars and buses waving and beeping encouragement we continued to climb through small villages and past angry dogs that being dark made it a bit more of a challenge. With 250 metres to climb then 200 then 100 we turned the last few bends and reached a cold and breezy summit. Spotting the old disused road off to the left it gave us a perfect spot to camp and rest for the night. With the tents up, down jackets on and stove lit we sat and looked across at the snow capped peaks that were being lit by the moon. It was incredible and although very cold we knew tomorrow would be all down hill and every metre we had earned. For now we had to make sure we ate and drank a warm drink to keep us warm for the night. It had been an incredible day with incredible views and I felt lucky I had such an amazing person to share it with.
Monday 25th May
Amanda preparing breakfast
Being up at 4,000 metres meant it was a cold night. Luckily even though our tents were fairly exposed it wasn’t windy. The sun warmed my tent and I got up with Amanda already having put the kettle on. By the time I got up it had already started to cloud over meaning not only was it much colder but we now couldn’t see the snow capped mountains we had been looking forward to.
The good thing we did have was no climbing. In fact we had 22 miles of all down hill and all of which was hairpin bends and incredible views. It was not just the descent the was amazing but also the massive grin on Amanda’s face. It felt so great to be able to share these moments and see the effect. I did try to catch her out without a smile but I just couldn’t
We stopped on the way down for a cup coffee which ended up being more of a bucket of coffee then a cup. This was accompanied by a hot corn on the cob which helped us warm from the inside. By this point we had dropped almost a thousand metres and the temperature had risen but with a cloudy sky we weren’t getting warm fast enough. With a load more bends to come we continued to descend to Abancay which was nestled in the valley below.
We reached the town and searched for the hostel we had been recommended. After half an hour of looking we reached it asked if I could store my bike. We were shown a room where we went through our things checking we both had the right stuff and that I could send some home and then headed out for food. After finding a nice family restaurant and face timing Jules and Amanda’s family we headed back to finish sorting. We managed to grab a shower and head off to the bus station to see if there was a bus. Amanda wanted to get a taxi but once at the bus station we found that the moment her bike was on the bus we were off. At this point I did mention I was sorry I hadn’t organised a bazaar event that seemed to happen on Peruvian transport when a film came on which was kick boxer 1 followed by kick boxer 2 and the lady at the front being sprayed with air freshener because some of the passengers said she smelt. After 4 and a half hours on the bus we arrived back in Cuzco and about 2 km from the hostel where we soon arrived and headed out for dinner. Amanda seemed to be amazed we had got back so fast and checked in to our hostel and out for dinner in record time. She then said all she wanted was some greens to go with her dinner. We sat down down and ordered our food to then be told there was a free salad bar. It was just incredible how everything had flowed so well and that we had got back with such ease. It had been an incredible couple weeks and an amazing day
Tuesday 26th May
It was great to lay in after a long day and got up to join Amanda for breakfast before she took the washing off to the laundrette and returned with extra fresh coffees and pastries which were eaten whilst relaxing in the sunny courtyard. After catching up with family on FaceTime and packing up Amanda’s bike we headed into the old town for more exploring. The streets were cobbled and the lower walls were all made from carefully carved inca stone with Spanish architecture on top and carved balconies that looked stunning and make it easy to wander for hours. Stumbling upon a court yard with market sellers Amanda set about buying presents for family and friends. Finding our way back to the beautiful Plaza we settled on tapas for lunch. I caught up with my family who found it hard to believe that cycling touring was hard work as they watched us devour tapas (including alpaca) and wine with a beautiful view over the Plaza.
I was impressed at how much stuff she could carry
After an afternoon of shopping it was back to the hostel for packing, more laundry and some rest. Soon after dark we made our way back to the streets of the old town to finish buying presents, looking at the amazing jnca architecture, including the hidden Puma and serpent in one of the walls.
It must have been hard enough to build it let alone produce a puma from rock and then get Amanda to stand there to point it out
She said her arms were aching for this this photo
We settled for a late dinner and tried the last local delicacy, which was a rather big Guinea pig. More exhausted from a day of wandering the streets than riding over any pass, we made it back to the hostel.
Hide your pets kids Amanda’s hungry
Wednesday 27th May
Waking up Feeling dreadful I checked to see if Amanda was feeling the same. She to wasn’t feeling great and we put it down to the rather large rodent we had eaten the night before. I helped her pack the last of her things and rap the bike box but with the sun so intense and not feeling great we took breaks in between efforts. We headed out to get lunch but not feeling great it was hard to know what to eat. One thing that was always good was soup and so after convincing Amanda to have a bowl we ate our last meal together. It had been such good fun having her join me but a real shame Dave couldn’t make it due to an injury. With no one else planned to come our it was going to be hard to say good bye. We had both smiled constantly and to have someone who found my jokes funny was amazing. It’s hard to put into words how much it meant having everyone come out and join me let alone the expense was just priceless. We headed back to the hostel where we collected our things and hailed down a taxi. Within 15 minutes we were at the airport with all Amanda’s things checking in. Once through we went for a coffee before she headed off. It all went smoothly apart from Amanda dropping her passport off the side of the coffee shop to the floor below.
I wonder who’s passport that is
With a sprint around the airport to get to where it was did make me chuckle but then I had laughed and smiled constantly since her arrival. Amanda was a person not afraid of having fun and getting stuck into any challenge.
And a piece of lemon pie 🙂
I will really miss her and her cooking of ready meals. The time soon came for her to leave and after seeing her through security making sure they matched the picture in her passport to her which was touch and go she was off. I headed off downstairs and walked up towards the bus depot where I would catch a bus back to Abancay to collect my bike and continue my journey north. After looking at a map I realised it was much further then I thought and caught a small bus. I checked the bus times to Abancay to find I had to wait 2 hours. The smoothness and luck we’d had was running out or had maybe gone with Amanda. With the bus not due to leave until 6 it meant I wouldn’t be in Abancay until at least 10pm. One thing that was good, was at least I was booked in and paid for at the hotel. Still not feeling great I set off on the bus and substituted tea for chocolate. I then decided to watch a movie on my laptop as kick boxer 4 wasn’t available. With the long climbs hairpin bends and 150 grams of chocolate I felt sick as a small rodent. I finally reached the town at 11pm totally shattered and headed straight for the hotel. After 5 minutes of explaining I had already paid I headed to my room. It felt strange to be on my own again and not to have someone to ride with but at this point I was so tired I would have to worry about it in the morning.
The last several weeks had been incredible having my friends come and join me and to support what I have set out to do. To have Amanda come to see me in Peru even after Dave had cut his foot was amazing. I gutted he couldn’t make it but Amanda made up for it ten fold. We laughed and smiled the whole time so I think could say she enjoyed herself. The problem with having so much fun is the saying goodbye and that was hard. She had been such amazing company it would feel strange on my own. Peru was going to get a whole lot harder with mountains after mountains but I knew the scenery would keep me company. With Ayacucho a few days ride away I could at at least look forward to seeing Manu again who was a Belgium guy we had cycled with crossing passo Sico.
I would miss my friends not being with me and would like to thank them all for such an amazing time. I still wished I’d brought local dress for Amanda to wear! It made me laugh so much. Thank you…
Thanks for reading xx