September 26, 2006

On the Bubble
Cuzco, Peru

I've been contemplating the most outrageous of ideas: Skipping Machu Picchu.

I'm back on solid food—recovered (more or less) from what I still think was a case of food poisoning from some bad meat. A day or so of downtime has given me opportunity to evaluate my desire to see what is arguably one of the most sought after tourist destinations on the continent.

Machu Picchu—the Lost City of the Inca—is ridiculously expensive to visit. It isn't so much the high entrance fee into the site, but the cost associated with the transit to get there. Most kids that aren't taking the challenging, guided, multi-day Inca trail hike are taking a pricey train from Cuzco.

Aguas Calientes is the shanty town a few kilometers below Machu Picchu. Aside from the trail, Aguas Calientes provides the only access to the site. It also just so happens that Aguas Calientes is only accessible by foot or train.

I've talked with locals, tourists, and hotel managers about how to most cost effectively reach Machu Picchu—doing so for less than US$100 will take some doing.

I've passed on dozens of famous archaeological sites this year—Chichen Itza, Tikal, and Cop├ín (to name a few). Would I feel any regret adding Machu Picchu to this long list?

The difference between Machu Picchu and those sites listed above is that I'd be passing for pure financial reasons. I'm interested, but am I that interested?

I do know that Machu Picchu is on the list of endangered world wonders, threatened by an impending landslide (and of course thousands of daily tourists). Shall I fork out a Benjamin to see it before it disappears?

(shrug) …Probably.

Comments:

JenFlom

September 26th, 2006

I recently watched an Anthony Bourdain travel show where he went to Machu Picchu and from that, I wouldn't recommend spending the money. He seemed to enjoy Cuzco more. Machu Picchu would be cool, but what is the point if you just go up there to be able to say "been there, done that". Just my two cents…

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

September 26th, 2006

Anthony Bourdain — isn't that the traveling chef? Guess there's no good eats to be had up there… ;)

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

September 26th, 2006

Do you all have these same fancy Coke bottles outside of Latin America?

Jeff

September 27th, 2006

I went to Cambodia in 1997 and skipped going to Angkor Wat. It was harder to get to then than it is now, and there were still safety issues with travelling outside the capital. I've regretted missing it ever since though, FWIW.

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

September 27th, 2006

Thanks for the thoughts, Jeff.

On a different note, I spoke much too soon on the whole solid food thing… still very much outta commission. bleh… :|

ChrisN

September 27th, 2006

I really enjoyed Machu Picchu, but I'd suggest staying over night in Aguas Caliente. Only going to MP for the mid-day tour rush is not fun. Take the extra day, go in the morning and the late afternoon when the tour groups are gone. It is an amazing place. The climb up Wayna Picchu is worth it as well, make sure you have good shoes though.

Forget the money-bags train. Take the cheap train there, when I took it in 2004 it was actually quite nice. The ride is great experience as well, the river valley is great.

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

September 27th, 2006

Thanks Chris, neat photos. Research has shown a cheaper night train option that I can jump on half way to Aguas Calientes (on the way there).

I'm not going anywhere fast though. My body feels like it has been hit with a dozen baseball bats. I'm enjoy all of the symptoms of food poisoning, and then some.

ChrisN

September 27th, 2006

It will take some time to recover, the altitude makes it harder as well. Might want to hit up Granja Heidi's for some yogurt to help out with some good bacteria.

Another cost tip for MP - I believe taking the trains in a different order can also lead to some savings - i.e. arriving in the afternoon, and departing in the morning. Most tours are arriving in the morning and departing in the afternoon.

Also, I believe that if you buy your MP ticket late in the afternoon for the next day, they let you in for the last hour or two that day for free. No clue if they still do that though.

Anonymous

September 28th, 2006

I had the same perdicament but my hesitation was the fact that I had been traveling for 8 months and was getting tired of site seeing. But I must admit although I don't regret seeing anohter "temple in Thailand" I do regret not going to Machu Picchu. Go brother. What will the $100 matter 10 years from now when you are working 10 hour days?

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

September 29th, 2006

My friend Jason just rolled back into the hostel here from Machu Picchu.

Good advice on how to get there on the cheap, as well as some shocking news about the cost of admission into the site… S$118 (US$36.50). Ludicrous.

…Jason also told me about how I could sneak into the site via a trail half way up the mountain, like a South African fellow they encountered. I'll give it a shot.

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