In Quillabamba we took a big 2 days of rest, stuffed with juices and fruits, a last chance to maximally enjoy our proximity to the jungle. In our opinion juice with fruitsalad makes a good dinner. It doesn’t seem to be an uncommon thought here. We’ve seen serious looking businessmen coming in to have a juice and ice-cream for dinner, or juice and cake for breakfast. Perhaps funny from a European perspective, but extremely tasty! Nastias favourite juice is ‘lucuma con leche’, an energy bomb. I haven’t made a pick yet, a standard papaya con leche or more fancy maracuja juice are my most frequent choices.
Sadly, the fruity rest couldn’t last forever. 3kg papaya with oats for breakfast one day, lucuma with sandwiches the other and we felt ready to hit the road. From Quillabamba to Santa Teresa it’s only about 47 km, the first part on a fancy asphalt road, the second part on a shitty gravel road in a wonderful canyon.
In Santa Teresa we got a room in a hostal for 3 nights, to leave the bikes hidden and locked while we visited Machu Picchu. The owner was delighted as in low season, he didn’t seem to get many guests.
From Santa Teresa it was easy to get a car to hydroelectrica, a power station at the end of the railway connecting Cusco with Machu Picchu. From there it’s a gentle uphill walk to Aguas Calientes along the rails. In Europe walking along/on the rails would be considered madness, and probably forbidden, here it’s considered normal. It’s not allowed by bike though, this is made clear by several signs and guards.
In Aguas Calientes everything is sold at western prices, a bit surprising after we got used to having three course meals for 1.5 euro. Still the restaurants serve good food and in many places the price goes down if you complain a bit. The most annoying in the village is that it consists for 90% out of restaurants and hotels, all of which try to attract customers very aggressively. For example , one woman chased us over a railway shouting to Anastasija : ‘but what do you want lady, we can serve anything!’ That last part was almost true, the restaurants have everything imaginable on the menu. Once inside though, the menu might shrink to half the size and if you push for a certain dish they will say ‘yes no problem’ and prepare whatever they feel like anyway. (that counts especially for the restaurants in Santa Teresa). I can’t complain however, I had alpaca and good beers, Nastia was less lucky with a grilled trout becoming a probably not too fresh, oversalted fried trout.
The visit to Machu Picchu was spectacular, especially the staircase to Wayna Picchu. We hung around for most of the day and hiked down and back in the evening, resulting in sore legs and feet the day after. A good way to start on our Salkantay adventure!