If you have been dreaming of visiting South America and visiting Machu Picchu in particular, but need to do it on a shoestring, this is the story for you. Travelling to exotic places on the cheap is my friend Jonathan’s passion in life. He has visited most of the places you only hear about on the news and always travels very lightly and tries to do what the locals do. Even though he’s not retired yet, his story is fascinating and helpful if you are planning to visit there. So here is his take on his recent adventure…
The journey to Machu Picchu, sorry the ‘mission’ to Machu Picchu began 54km away in a small town, known as Ollanta. This is the place that everyone starts the journey. From here there are technically two options – the train or walking illegally along the train tracks. The train is extremely overpriced for foreigners. The average price is $90US one way for the 90mins journey. Unfortunately, these are the only options as there are no road connections. So, I choose option two, a 28km walk along the train tracks. It was an adventure all the way. The illegal nature added to the thrill and it comes with an ever present threat of territorial dogs. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Along the tracks there are numerous signs stating that it is forbidden to walk on or near the tracks, however, the local community use it often and were quite happy to point me in the right direction. They also showed me how to avoid any Police check points near the start of the journey.
It’s a relatively flat track, with a few tunnels but no real danger from the trains! You can usually hear them coming and have plenty of time to get out of the way.
I had been warned about the dogs, but I believed that still wouldn’t matter. I’d be OK! Then along the way there was a ‘fright or flight’ at moment. I was daydreaming and ‘bang’ a pack of dogs were chasing me. The alpha male hunted me down, chomped, literally at my heals, and even with my backpack on, I ran, jumped onto the tracks, just in front of the passing train, but I escaped. I was battered and bruised and feeling sorry for myself, but the journey continued.
The best part of the walk was the solitude and Inca ruins dotted along the way. It was a long walk but after 5hrs and 40mins I’d arrived at the village near the ruins. My concern now was being stopped as I left the tracks but no one even blinked an eye at me. I was just so thankful to have made it!
The next day was a visit to Machu Picchu ruins itself. It costs another $US 70 for the entrance ticket and another $24 for bus to the entrance. This is not a cheap place to visit!
So was it worth it? I am not sure! When you are at Machu Picchu you are herded round like sheep, all moving in one direction. But the stupidest thing is, when you get to the end of the circuit you can’t just rejoin the sheep in the lines if you want to retrace some of your steps. Rather you have to exit the place, then queue up again to enter, with the people going in for the first time.
To go to the toilet, is exactly the same process. It’s just bazaar! And the place is so, so crowded. It’s very difficult to escape crowds, even though there is a limit of 2,500 people per day. Both of these things really spoiled the magnificence of the place. Looking at the pictures it’s amazing. But…