Week 42 & 43 - Urubamba and Beyond
We left Cusco, well after the owners of Los Condores Apart Hotel took a couple of photos of us departing on our bikes we were off again. The planned route was going to be quite short as we only wanted to get to Urubamba, but the scenery was quite beautiful being in close proximity of the sacred valley.
We got to the winding road that snaked down into Urubamba, and with little issue we managed to find our hostal, where we met a Malaysian woman called Vinee, who was lovely. Unfortunately, the woman who owned the property attached to the hostal did not want us to park our bikes in her courtyard and made things very difficult. Luckily the owner (Hanna) also had another hostal on the other side of town, so quickly she and Vinee sorted us out and showed us the way the the other accommodation...them in a TukTuk and us following on our bikes, although the tuktuk driver was a little erratic, which made things interesting! We got there in one piece. There was a gated entrance where the bikes would be safe and sound. Happy days. The place was quiet, cosy and had a beautiful garden so it suited us well. We also met Pedro who was Portugeese and the boyfriend of Vinee, who was also very nice and we chatted to them both quite a bit.
We also met an Australian couple at the hostal called Ben and Megs, with their 1 year old 'Buster'. What a cool name! I take my hat off to them travelling on buses with a 1 year old. It would be challenge enough in a van let alone without your own transport and I think they found it a little restrictive, but they were doing it. One of the evening's, Ben joined us while we were having some rum and updating our web stuff, and between the three of us the rum went down rather too swiftly! It was a nice evening though and we talked a lot about life and travel, which is always interesting.
A great thing about Urubamba was it's huge indoor market full of fruit and vegetables in the middle. The meat sections never thrill me as there's always too many flies, but the fruit and veg looked amazing. Also, like many other markets you could buy pastas, grains and pulses by the 100g. We got a selection of produce and then returned to our little sanctuary.
The other great thing is Urubamba's proximity to a few other sites namely Moray, Ollaytaytambo, Salineras de Maras and Machu Picchu. We'd already decided to leave Machu Picchu out due to cost and the sheer volume of tourists, plus the cheaper option of walking 12km to Aguas Calientes didn't really appeal due to Kelvin's achillies issue and my hip aching. We did however go to the salt mines (Salineras de Maras) with Vinee and Pedro for a day out, which was great. We bundled in a taxi upto a little village called Maras, then walked from there down to the Salt mines, getting a view that most people don't.
Due to the fact that you come in over the top you can see the whole valley, but walking upto it from the parking area would be a slog. It cost a small fee of 10 soles to enter (about £2.20) and you could walk right next to a lot of the salt pools. Some idiots decided to walk in them and scribe stuff in the salt despite them asking you not to, but that's some people for you. We then left and followed the path all the way down through the valley, which was beautiful, and found our way back to the main road to Urubamba. What a great day! We were so lucky with the weather to, and the usual afternoon rain hadn't appeared so we were very fortunate.
The next excursion was to Ollaytaytambo, some 17km or so up the road. We got a little tuktuk to the bus station for less than a £1, a bus to Ollaytaytambo for about a £1 each, and then we took the free walk up to see some beautiful ruins, which also looked over the more famous ruins on the other side of the valley which you can see in one of the pictures. To be honest, we preferred the side we were on, not only because it was free but because the views were amazing and there was hardly anyone else around, does it sound like we hate crowds of tourists! The walk was quite challenging at times being steep and rocky in many places, but it was worth it. You could also see the whole of the town, which was mainly built of stone and very picturesque compared to some towns we had ventured into.
After a lot of sweating getting up the hill we then went back down, via some more ruins and then found a little restaurant hidden away to have some food in. We were delighted to be served by a little girl who couldn't have been more than 6 years old. She was very sure of herself and looked the part, although her brother did the note taking while the parents did all the work behind the scenes. We've found in most places, families work together to run the familiy business, whatever it may be. It had been another great day and we made it back to Urubamba just as the sky started spitting...good timing once again!
So it was time to leave Urubamba before we settled in too well, and this time we were heading for Santa Teresa. We were only going to go to Santa Maria, however Hanna said that Santa Teresa was beautiful with a nice mountain road, so it went on the list. The road to Santa Maria was all tarmac, however as soon as we turned off it was a small dirt and gravel road, all the way to Santa Teresa, with huge drop-off's and single track in many places, which was great...so long as you didn't meet a car or bus bombing it in the opposite direction! It was a stunning ride, and we found a hostal to stay in for 2 nights just before it completely bucketed it down. We parked our bikes in their front room as they were a little too wide to go into the foyer, and the next morning I went down and there was about 10 people sat around a table in the room, in between our two bikes which were either side. I felt a bit bad but they were very happy with the arrangement and just laughed.
Note for Marcus: Suzie has now burnt the pants in the picture above: however she now has some MC Hammer pants!!
Although we wouldn't be going to Hydroelectrica from Santa Teresa, to then walk to Machu Picchu like most people did, we still had some stuff we could do. The town was small and pretty, but there was also some beautiful thermal baths just a few Km down the hill near the river, so we went there and spent a good few hours just chilling out in the lovely water, surrounded by mountains. It was so nice and it didn't get too busy being a week day, and because there were three large pools you could easily get away from other people if you wanted. The only downside...shower before entry and no creams etc so we did get some sunburn despite trying to hide in the shade. Damn!
Moving on from Santa Teresa, we wanted to take the back roads to Andahuaylas as I'dseen it on the map and so long as the weather was good it was meant to be a great ride. We headed out, retraced our steps as far as the tarmac road, but it wasn't very long until we hit dirt track again. It was nice, easy dirt road with some amazing scenery and roads running back and forwards over the mountains with a big river often in sight. It was such a pleasant ride, plus not one drop of rain.
When we neared a town called Vilcabamba we stopped off at a nearby village with a small hostal called Sixpack hostal, which I found on iOverlander. It was a tiny place with no wifi or 3G (perfect), a little gated parking area, a few small rooms with two single beds, great food and a hot shower! It cost about £8 for the both of us for the night and about £1.50 each for dinner and slightly less for breakfast, which the lady had offered to prepare for us when we started asking about local places to eat...I'm not sure there were any the town was that small. It did chuck it down later and it was nice to be undercover just watching the rain coming down over the mountains. You could even see the glimpse of a snow-capped mountains in the distance. In the morning we had a long conversation with the son of the lady who owned the place and he was trying to promote tourism in the area so we exchanged details. He gave us some good advice on directions out of the town due to one of the bridges being out, which was much appreciated. He also warned us that the road was a lot more bumpy from here on, but that the weather was good so we shouldn't have any issues with landslides, fingers crossed. Apparently some cyclists didn't heed the advice of the locals when the weather was bad recently and sadly lost their lives!
So we were off to Anduhuaylas via the back roads and what a trip it was. In fact, I think it was just about the best ride of the trip so far! From Santa Teresa where we had been the day before, to our destination in Andahuyalas it was about 350km, most of which was dirt road. You just don't have that luxury in Britain.
The weather was on our side, and we got to test out the heated grips that Kelvin had hooked up in Cusco...amazing! The views were stunning and very varied, from deep canyons, red rock mountains, huge passes, snow-capped peaks, you name it, we had it! There were quite a few water crossings, only one of which I gave the bike to Kelvin and I took the questionable rope and wood bridge accross. There's no way it would have held a bike in some places so it wasn't worth the risk. Unfortunately on one of the small water crossings, Kelvin came off and all of the ice cold water went in his vents on his bike pants. Some of the water crossings are huge concrete slabs and these get very slippery in places where the algae sticks. My back wheel slid a little but Kelvin hit it at an angle and before he knew it he was on the ground in the water. I ran back to help get his bike up, and luckily it was unharmed, but Kelvin was wet and cold. Oops! Guess it serves him right for admiring the views than concentrating on the track!
We went upto huge heights of about 4500m and had to pass through one military check point, where they only wanted our bike papers however they didn't really know which bits to write down! A while after this my bike started cutting out due to lack of fuel. Having done so much off-road our fuel consumption had gone up, but my bike seemed to be consuming more, so we needed to find fuel urgently.
Hmmmm, where do you find fuel in the middle of nowhere?! We came upon a few houses and asked a local if they knew where we could get gasoline. They said 'si' and pointed down the road to a small house on te corner. Ok, it didn't look like a fuel place but we would try. We got there and I shouted 'Hola' a few times before someone came out. They greeted us with a smile and one by one the whole family came out, intrigued by our bikes, us and what the hell we were doing there. We managed to get our tanks refilled using jugs and a funnel, plus they gave us a banana each. Then came the obligatory photos, which we were quite happy to do and we took some of our own of course, before we said fairwell as the daylight was slowly fading.
They took so many photos and just loved it. We arrived into Andahuaylas in the dark and in the rain, which wasn't as fun, but we did manage to find a hotel with secure parking for quite cheap, so we were happy. In fact we stayed the whole weekend to chill out and also visit the local lake called Pacucha, which was really nice. We even helped a guy get his car out of a ditch where his front drive shaft popped out. Not good! Needless to say, getting out of the ditch was the least of his worries.
We found a little place that did cheap but tasty pizza and a bar that did the best mojitos! Sorted! Other than that, the town didn't offer too much more or maybe we didn't look hard enough, but we were happy to be chilling out and getting ready for the next section of the trip, hopefully heading up into the mountains in central Peru!
Sadly, my bike had other plans...!