Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world and is definitely worth battling through the hoards of tourists to see, especially if you find yourself within a hundred miles of the place.
The slight problem is that there are no roads that go there it’s totally cut off and only accessible by train (or train line), and the rather posh looking tourist trains don’t allow bicycles on them.
As a cycle tourist I want to generally travel on or with my bike, I also want to visit Machu Picchu so was determined to find a way to Include this epic place on my trip. There was hope though in the form of a widely used hiking trail at the far side of Machu Picchu, so I headed there to check it out….
I was told about this ‘back door trail’ to Machu Picchu by a local in Cusco. It’s a few days ride but all you have to do is ride to Ollantaytabmo then up the sacred valley and drop down to Santa Maria (as in the last post). Once In Santa Maria it’s probably a day’s ride following the epic yellow river valley to the Hydro Electric power station where the road ends. You can see the back of Machu Picchu mountain from here which is pretty cool. You ride through a no cycling sign to meet the train line where you can see loads of walkers happily heading out and returning from the town next to Machu Piccchu called Aguas Calientes.
On following the walkers, I was stopped by a railway employee who said to me no bicycles we’re allowed to ride the line.
This was a bit of a blow as it had taken me 3 hard days to get to this point. He did say though that I could pay for a ten min train ride from the station.
Two hours later the train arrived and the staff just said sorry this is a tourist train and can’t take bikes. The lady in the ticket office then said I could wait a further 2 hours for the local train which can take bikes. Thinking of how unreliable the information was turning out to be, and the risk factor of being refused again I just took a short cut through the bushes and set off cycling up the train line.
The train line was a really nice trail to ride, and after an hour or so of following it, I popped out of the last tunnel to finally see the distant town of Aguas Calientes nestled in the steep valley in the distance (pictured below)
Riding around the town was strange, everyone was staring at me as if to say ‘how have you got here?…there are no roads that lead here’.
I got myself a room for the night and rose the next day to finally hit Machu Picchu. The plan was to get up at 5am and arrive there before the buses do at six, this is what everyone else seemed to be doing, but in reality I pressed snooze and got up at seven, had a coffee and breakfast in town on the way and arrived about nine just in time to see the mist clear. It was only a one hour walk from the town. Chatting to the early birds that had been up since 4;30am only to stand in the fog for 3 hours left me feeling really smug with my relaxed start.
Machu Picchu was worth it though I must admit, really epic place. Even better though was getting a ticket to walk up ‘the mountain’ which was a last min decision in the ticket office and worth every penny. It was a long walk but so high and full of mountain flora and 360 degrees views over what felt like the whole of Peru.
On the way back down I collected my bike from the town started heading back down the train line only to be stopped by an other train worker who told me I couldn’t ride down. So via google translate, I asked him how I could I get out of this place because the trains don’t allow bikes!? It turns out that I would have had to ship my bike on the ‘locals only’ train with a 3 day delivery time to Cusco and then get the tourist train with all my pannier bags whilst wondering If I will ever see my bike again.
I said yea cool I’ll come back in a later and give you the bike, but instead just went through the bushes again and headed back down the train line to the power station. It took about 30 mins to get down, very nice ride and I didn’t even see a train.
This whole episode reinforced to me that the bike is Indeed THE most simple, easy. inexpensive and beautiful way to travel and although it was a bit of a pain getting here the beauty of the place made it more than worth it. The thought of leaving the bike in Cusco for a week and missing out on the amazing journey was just not an option.[click on the image for gallery mode]