So, after more than 3 months in Perú, I arrived in Cusco and booked a trip to Machu Picchu with an overnight stay. I would then be able to get an early start and maximise my visit. I had planned to make the journey by train in both directions after first going by road to Ollantaytambo.
Unfortunately, because of a strike affecting various parts of the country, I was not able to make the journey by train on my chosen day. Instead of changing dates, I accepted the alternative of going by road to within 15kms of Aguascalientes and walking the remainder. I would then spend the night in Aguascalientes and have the choice of walking up to Machu Picchu early the next morning, or, take the 20 minute bus ride. The price for all of this was quite a bit cheaper than the original plan.
As, part of the deal, I had insisted on having a seat with ample leg room, as this was to be a long journey. This was agreed and on the morning of the trip, after the usual shuffling of passengers between various companies, which is usual in Perú in order to fill the vehicles, I found myself in a mini bus filled to capacity and ready to go.
The day steadily got worse from there. I am no fan of Peruvian driving standards or skills which seem to be close to zero. Unfortunately, the driver of this vehicle was by far, the worst I have encountered so far. That makes him special and I only hope I am never a passenger with a worse driver.
It was slow going at first, and it was only when we got onto the fairly empty but hazardous, winding, mountain roads that it became clear how inept he was. He went into blind hairpin bends on the wrong side of the road. We had a couple of near misses as a result. He had no idea of gear selection for the type of road we were on. This meant at times we were coasting and worse, he did not have full control of the vehicle which he “threw” into each bend, causing the vehicle to swerve with the tyres squealing under the strain.
I made some comments and for a while this seem to slow him down. However, it was not long before he resumed his “driving” style and, after one particularly hairy moment, the driver of another vehicle pulled alongside us and indicated there was a problem with our vehicle. One of the front wheels appeared to have a puncture.
After some considerable time he managed to get the wheel off only to find that the spare was flat. I, in the meantime had gone for a walk and was photographing things of interest.
You can clearly see how little tread there is on the tyre. When the driver finally removed it from the vehicle, I examined it. It was not flat but had lost about 50 per cent of its pressure, quite likely as the tyre rolled during the harsh cornering under speed. As the spare was useless, the driver, whom I had offered advice to, reference his style of driving, rolled the semi-flat tyre off down the hill in search of compressed air.
In the meantime, some of the passengers flagged down a bus and disappeared out of sight, while the rest of us waited for the cavalry to turn up in the form of 2 taxis. The driver of the taxi I was in, then proceeded to give us the sequel to the “ride from/to hell” as we went onto a dirt road with blind bends. He was of the opinion that tooting his horn would be enough to stop any oncoming vehicles that may be approaching on the other side of the bend. Hardly slowing down and completely miffed by the fact they had ignored his warning. Oblivious to the fact that they were probably thinking the same of him.
We were then deposited in a small town where we should have had lunch. However, because we were so late, lunch seemed to be off the agenda. We then had to negotiate to get a ride to Hidroelectrica from where we should have had the option of taking the train or walking the last 15 kms.
As we arrived at Hidroelectrica the train was about to leave, we did not have the option of boarding it, as we would have had to have bought the tickets at the town we had just left.
We were not a happy bunch by now. Although we did all seem to agree we were lucky to be alive and some of us planning alternative journeys back to Cusco. Time to start walking. Onwards and upwards.
“Danger. Don´t walk on the track”.
There were some interesting sights along the way…
…and some hazards.
I was told that this was the back of Machu Picchu.
It was getting dark but there were still some things to see. This butterfly was huge, sadly it is not a sharp image.
The light continued to fade and we had to finish the journey, walking along the railway in the dark. I had a torch with me, which reduced the risk element but when we arrived at Aguascalientes we were not happy. I was with a very nice couple from Bogota in Colombia, Carlos and Doris and between us we managed to track down our guides, reunite with other members of our groups and best of all locate our hotel rooms. We had had enough for one day. Alarm set for 4am the next day and Machu Picchu awaits.