10 October, 2012

Day 98, 180km: To Aguas Calientes

You know how people are scared of the water after a Tsunami? Or avoid a country and all its products entirely because of a nuclear incident? Well yesterday's flat tire had the same effect on me.
I wasn't entirely sure of the reliability of my repair and stopped every 20km at first to check the wheel, the axle, the tire pressure, the point where the tire was punctured... I just didn't want it to happen again.

The day actually started with a 20km "test ride", 10km out of the city, then 10km back in, to make sure everything was in order and my rear wheel wouldn't get loose somewhere in the mountains.

Made it further than the point where I had my flat tire! Haha!
So I was back on the same road, still going slowly as I was really scared the bike would fall apart. The road went up a valley, across a mountain pass (around 4000m if I remember) and into another valley.

Great view from up there. Let's go down this road!
At that point the confidence came back in and I started driving at a normal speed again. Took me a couple hours to get to that point. As we went down the valley, the temperature went up. It was around 30C down there. A very welcome change after the cold nights of Cusco!

So the vegetation changed too
 It's impressive how quickly the landscape changes here, since the elevation changes are so abrupt.

The road turned to a trail, like in the dead town above
 The place I was headed to (Santa Teresa) is the last train station on the way to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to the Macchu Pichu. So it's actually a dead-end on the road. The road above was very weird, 5km from any village and with absolutely nothing in sight.
Obviously there was no-one to ask what happened to the city. Probably a mining town or some other temporary exploitation of resources that eventually went dry.

The last 30km to Santa Teresa
 The last part of the road was from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa, where the road turned into a single-lane dirt track. There was actually a lot of traffic there, with minivans and taxis racing through the mountain, WRC style. Honking in every curve, I was taking it slowly to make sure I didn't end in the river down the road.

Santa Teresa
 Made it there around 2pm after an hour of dirt track. The plan was to drop my stuff at a hotel recommended by Salvatore the evening before (Eco Quechua Lodge), take a shower then head to the train station of Hydroelectrica, arriving at Aguas Calientes sometime around 4pm.

Felt like a kid, happy to be dirty because mom's not around!
 That was the greatest cold shower I ever had.

Hydroelectrica train station
 That was a short ride to Aguas Calientes, I was seating next to ladies and girls on the last day of a 6 days trek to Macchu Pichu. They were visibly exhausted but we still managed to have a chat about our respective travels during the hour-long ride to Aguas Calientes.

Train station, Aguas Calientes
Since I had hopped in the train without a ticket, I gave my passport to the cabin officer (do you say that?) and once we arrived I went to the ticketing office to get my passport back. There was another guy in the same situation, an American in his thirties who had been travelling for 6 months. The guy was pissed at EVERYTHING. Pissed that it was raining, pissed that the lady was taking long to give him his passport, pissed that he didn't speak Spanish, his ramblings went on and on. First time on the trip that I started ignoring someone talking to me, I was just sick of hearing him complain.
People can have bad days, sure. Still, that's when I realized that you actually need to be in a certain mindset to enter a several-months trip, laid-back, patient and ready to enjoy every small thing.

Aguas Calientes downtown, I'm in a hotel down the road right now
So as far as I'm concerned, I was happy to be able to see the Macchu Pichu tomorrow, happy that I had people to talk with during the train ride and generally happy to be on my trip!

Tomorrow I will try and take the first bus to the Macchu Pichu, 5.30am. So I'm off to bed very soon. I'm guessing that everyone must do the same so there'll probably be an enormous queue tomorrow. Whatever, my back feels better when I'm standing.
Yes it still hurts and the hour long dirt road didn't help things I guess. I'm going to offer myself a break when I reach the Peruvian town of Puno, on the shores of the lake Titicaca.

Cheers everyone,
Guillaume

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