So, it seems like it has been at least 10 days since we wrote a more detailed blog post. It took us a little while longer than usual since we have been relatively busy with our adventures to reach the famous Machu Picchu.
But first, let's talk a little bit about Lima, the capital of Peru, where we spent 6 days in total. Being in Lima gave us a chance to rent a small apartment with a kitchen and live a more “normal" life for a week. After moving around quite a bit since the beginning of our trip, we were in serious need of cooking our own meals and settling down for a few days. So that's what we did! Our little apartment was in the district of Lince, not the best neighborhood for tourists necessarily, but we had restaurants and grocery stores around, so it was perfect. I (Michele) got sick for most of our time there… I probably ate something bad, who knows! But that did not prevent us from wandering around the city. Over the week, we visited the neighborhood of Miraflores where David almost decided to book a paragliding activity… too bad there was not enough wind the day he wanted to go. We also went to see the new James Bond movie like we probably would have done back home. Also, a highlight of our time in Lima was our visit to Parque de la Reserva where you can see dozens of illuminated fountains at an exhibition called "Circuito Magico del Agua". It only costs 4 soles per person (about 2$) and it was totally worth it! We were lucky it was located a few blocks away from our apartment. Other than that, we relaxed, cooked dinners (osso bucco, ceviche, etc.. 😀) and planned the next part of our trip.
Our next stop was the charming little town of Cusco. It is located at more than 3500 meters above sea level and it took us 23 hours to reach by bus from Lima in a long journey through the Andes. It's quite a difficult bus ride, first because of the length and second because going up the mountains through never ending curvy roads can make you quite nauseous! But Cusco is the town you need to reach before heading to see the Machu Picchu. It is recommended to arrive in Cusco a few days before you head out for any trekking activity to get acclimatized to the high altitude. Upon our arrival, even though it probably helped to arrive by bus instead of by plane to get acclimatized more slowly to the altitude, we still felt a little dizzy, tired and out of breath for the first 2 days or so...
In Cusco, we shopped around the many different agencies to find the tour we wanted to do to Machu Picchu. It was not going to be my first time visiting the Machu Picchu as I did the Inca Trail 4 years ago, but I wanted to reach this special site with David while doing something more interesting than simply taking the train back and forth and a little less demanding than the 4 days hike of the Inca Trail.
The best option for us ended up being the Jungle trek. While most agencies in Cusco offer this tour, we booked with Conde Travel, a mid-range tour operator. The whole tour was fine, although we changed guides 3-4 times during a 4 day period, but the food was good, the hostels were clean and all the activities were as described.
On the first days, we were picked up at our hostel at around 5:30am. We picked up all the other people and headed out to the headquarter of Conde to have breakfast before heading out by bus to our first activity. It took us 5-6 hours to get to Abra de Malaga where we were supposed to start our first activity, a bike descent of 56 kilometres (!), mostly downhill, from 4,400 meters above sea level to 2,000 meters. Sadly, it was raining pretty heavily that morning. The group decided to reach a point further down the road where it would be a bit warmer and hopefully, less rainy. It was definitely warmer, but unfortunately for us, it was still raining. Anyway, we were there so we put on our gear, grabbed the bikes and proceeded to descend 50 kilometres of road on our (mostly safe) mountain bikes, in the rain, getting completely soaked on the way, shoes included! The rain sucked, but in the end, we still appreciated the activity quite a bit 😀
Afterwards, we left our group (we booked a 3 days tour and they where doing the 4 days tour) and joined another at the hot springs in Santa Teresa. The setting was beautiful; thermal baths in the middle of the Andes at sunset… but that's where we ended up getting hundreds of mosquito bites. And by hundreds, I am not exaggerating - we counted them! Those bugs looked like harmless fruit flies but ended up being worst than our mosquitos back home.
While we suffered (and are still suffering) from the bites, we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and headed to our next activity, ziplining! 5 lines over canyons, some more than a kilometer long, it was quite fun!! We will be posting videos of the activity on our Facebook page soon.
After a fun morning, we took a van to Hidroelectrica where we had lunch before leaving for a 12 kilometer long walk along the railroad to finally reach Aguas Calientes, the little town located at the base of the Machu Picchu mountain. Half of the walk was sunny, the last half was… raining again! So we were drenched, again! We had all of our gear with us (15-18kg...) so you can imagine we had quite a workout walking that distance with it. Fortunately it was quite flat, except for the last 2.5km which was uphill and pretty hard after the long walk.
We tried our best to dry our things out and went to bed early that night. We had to because the next morning, we needed to wake up at 4am so we could leave at 4:30 and hike for 1:30 hours up the hill to reach the Machu Picchu entrance. We could have taken the bus up and down, but it was actually quite expansive (12$ each way per person), so we went with the cheaper, more adventurous and more difficult option. We reached the entrance by 6:15-6:30 and entered the site with our group and our guide at that time.
The feeling you get when you finally see the Machu Picchu is hard to describe. It gives you goosebumps and puts a smile on your face as you finally witness how big and impressive the site actually is. It is unfortunate that the site gets so crowded with tourists, even at 6:30 in the morning. But we were lucky to have a sunny morning so we wandered throughout the site with our guide, took many pictures and by 9am, we were left on our own to visit the rest of it. We then climbed to the top of the site in direction of the Inka bridge where you can get the best views of the Machu Picchu to take the famous postal card pictures of the site.
So we did it! After many hours of driving, 50kms of downhill biking, thermal baths, zip lining, 24 kilometers of walk and hundreds of mosquito bites, David and I where seeing this magical site together! It was quite an adventure and we both enjoyed it a lot. Our Machu Picchu adventure was definitely a highlight in our Round the world trip!