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Eugene Weekly : Cover Story : 10.23.08

 

Winter Getaways

Sunrise of the  Gods

The downlow on getting to Machu Picchu 

Words and photos by Deanna Uutela

Are you in need of some serious R & R? Do you wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares involving bailouts, elections and rising food prices? Instead of escaping it all by hiding out in your home drinking wine and weeping over old episodes of Planet Earth, you could be basking in some Peruvian sun and recording your own amazing moments in nature.

For about the same price as a flight to New York and a Broadway show or a week with the kids in Yosemite, you could be meditating on sacred stone in one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Getting to Machu Picchu doesn’t sound cheap. There aren’t any roads that lead directly to the city of Aguas Calientes situated next to the Incan ruins, so the only options to get there, according to guidebooks and online sources, are to walk the Inca Trail or take the train.

A one way train ride from Cusco to Aguas Calientes will cost from $60 to $300 depending on availability, and getting a ticket on the cheaper end requires a reservation months ahead. Doing a three to four day excursion hiking the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu would be unforgettable, but a price tag of around $400 makes this option impossible for the financially strapped traveler.

What you need to do is put down the Lonely Planet book and take your cues from local residents. If you follow these tips, you can be watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu within a month — and still have enough money to come home and start paying off your student loans. 

Take a few days to acclimatize. You will need to spend at least two days in a city like Cusco, which is at an elevation of over 10,000 ft., before making the trip to Machu Picchu.

When you’re ready, it’s time to leave Cusco. Catch a bus from Bus Terminal Santiago to the city of Santa Maria. The bus leaves at 8 am, arrives in the town at 2 pm and costs around $3. After arriving in Santa Maria, catch a collectivo to the town of Santa Teresa. The ride will take about two hours and cost $2. Once you reach Santa Teresa, catch another ride to the hydroelectric plant outside of town. This ride will cost less than a dollar and only takes an hour. At the plant, someone will direct you to the train tracks you will be walking on to get to the city of Aguas Calientes — or directly to the bottom of Machu Picchu if you are going to camp. The walk on the tracks takes about two hours but is safe, and you get to see some beautiful scenery.

Now you’re close! A few more tips from a recent traveler:

1) Buy your entrance ticket to enter Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes. The cost is $44 but is 50 percent off if you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC).

2) Plan on paying $14 for a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and back if you aren’t willing or able to make the walk/hike from Aguas Calientes to the ruins.

3) If you have brought your own camping gear, camping near Machu Picchu is the cheapest option. But if you have no gear, Aguas Calientes has plenty of accommodations for around $5 per person.

4) Bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Disposable bottles are not allowed in Machu Picchu, so make sure to have a canteen or water bladder.

5) Sneak in food. Outside food is supposedly prohibited, but once you’re inside the site, you would be pretty much the only one obeying the rules, so do yourself a favor and bring in your own food. Just make sure whatever you bring can fit in a small bag because large bags are not allowed inside.

Then there’s the World Heritage Site itself. Oregonians are lucky enough to be surrounded by mountains that are ready for exploration. From the top of Skinner Butte you can view Eugene in its entirety, and hikes on the McKenzie Trail will lead you to breathtaking waterfalls and out of the way hot springs, but nothing in Oregon can prepare you for what you will encounter at the entrance of Machu Picchu. Imagine hiking up to the top of Skinner Butte, and instead of finding a pile of rocks, you enter into the gates of an ancient Incan city. Mist floats over surrounding peaks, and a peace comes over you as you walk through stone buildings that haven’t been lived in since 1532 A.D. As the sun rises, it reveals more and more terraces and stairways, which lead you to new mysteries and splendors around every corner. Once you step onto this sacred site, you will find a

hundred reasons to come back.

 

 

Winter Getaways:

Sunrise of the  Gods

The downlow on getting to Machu Picchu 

Welcome To a Mexican Beach!

Now go straight to hell  

A Year in the “City of Happiness”

Rotary Youth Exchange for South student 

The Basics Within a Day's Drive