Getting to Machu Picchu, Pt 2: from Santa Teresa to Aguas Calientes

Note: this trip took place around February/March 2009. Although I believe the info is useful, you should be aware that things (even if prices) might have changed.

Resuming from part 1:

So… five people and two flashlights, the train tracks which would lead us to Aguas Calientes and an apparently calm night. It looked like it was going to be a relaxing – although long – walk to town. Unfortunately, as soon as we started walking the rail tracks, and as the scarce street lights gave way to general darkness, we turned on the flashlights. Then, the rain came. And it didn’t rain a bit; this was sudden, heavy and apparently never-ending rain.

We kept following the tracks. Because of the rain it was almost impossible to look at what was in front of us over the next 3 or 4 meters. Also, there are several bridges along the tracks, and you’ve got to be a bit careful. It’s not that dangerous if you pay attention to the sound of the river below: as soon as you hear water running louder and louder, it most likely means you’re getting nearer to a bridge.

At some point we got off the tracks to try a shortcut the polish guys had been told about. We got completely soaked and muddy, lost and wandering in the dark. Mud nearly up to our knees at some point. We eventually found some sort of camping site and decided to wake up its occupants (they were sleeping inside a huge military-like tent) to ask where the heck we were. Unfortunately, and although startled by our sudden appearance, sleep was the biggest concern of this bunch so we didn’t get much information from them. So, we had to get back to the tracks and keep following them to Aguas Calientes. Funny fact: there is a shortcut indeed, and we’ve probably went by the correct intersection several times; but the darkness and the heavy rain would only make us go around in circles (which we had been, more or less, for the past hour or so). Therefore, following the tracks seemed like the best option. General rule: if you always follow the tracks, you’ll definitely find Aguas Calientes.

Nearly three hours later we arrived in Aguas Calientes. In better weather conditions you should do this pretty quick, I’d say a couple of hours. We entered the first hostel we found. I think it was the first one on the left. We woke them up in the middle of the night and – fortunately – they had rooms for us. We were completely drenched. Since we were going back to Cuzco after Machu Picchu, we had left all our stuff safely guarded in town (in my case, at the Huiñariy hostel). Those covering our bodies were the only clothes we had. We were a soaked, muddy mess. We asked the manager to please wash them, which he did (we strolled around the hostel in towels during this time…). Before laying ourselves to sleep, though, our Argentine travel buddy and I had a brief discussion with the manager. He wanted to weigh our clothes on-spot. They charge you by the kilogram, of course, and my outfit was hitting nearly 4 kilograms (a lot of it, water). We finally convinced him that we’d pay the weight in the end, after everything was dry. I paid 15 soles per night – room for 3 – which was probably one of the cheapest fees around Aguas Calientes. So there’s your price reference. I can’t remember the name of the place, and I haven’t written it.

So we spent the next day sleeping as much as we wanted, picked up our clothes (the people at the entrance must have thought we were nuts, fetching the bags in our towels. We were tired and took the day off, buying some groceries to cook back at the hostel, and going for a walk, also to buy the entrances to Machu Picchu. Each of us paid 130 soles for this.

Back to the hostel, eat and sleep. We were going to the Inca city the following dawn. The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes at 6 a.m. and it costs 7 dollars (read somewhere that it’s currently $9?). The bus wasn’t an option for any of us: our plan was – just like a lot of backpackers there – to wake up around 4 a.m. and hike the mountain all the way up, trying to arrive at the gate before that first bus.

To be continued.

Resuming:

1) Get the bus from Cusco to Santa María (max. 10-15 soles).

2) Once there, get a ‘combi’ (small bus) to Santa Teresa (a.k.a. “hidroeléctrica“, 7 soles, maybe less), which will take 2 hours (by night, anyway).

3) In Santa Teresa the combi can leave you in town or drive you to the “vía” (rail tracks); you should specify that to the driver.

4) The tracks cross the town of Aguas Calientes, so as long as you follow them you’re on the right path. Bring flashlight and (also depending on the time of year) better buy one of those cheap plastic raincoats you can find almost everywhere.

5) The first hostel on the left as soon as you enter Aguas Calientes charged us 15 soles for a 3-bed room, that’s probably as cheap as you’ll find. Plus, you exit the building, cross the road, and you keep going down and then go right following the river. That shortcut will take you to the other shortcut… to the Inca city.

6) Go to the center of Aguas Calientes and get to the Tourist Office to buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. As far as I know, 130 soles.

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