The path that most people take to Machu Picchu is via a long tourist train from the Cusco/Sacred Valley area.
There are no roads that go all the way to Machu Picchu, but there is one that gets close via the jungle in Santa Teresa. Since this is the town where Gian Marco’s zipline company is located, we decided to follow him there, and then head to Machu Picchu by way of the mostly untraveled “back door.”
Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. It was your typical horror show South American death road. Muddy, steep, and with eroding vertical cliffs, (no guard rails). Can you see the truck in this photo?
It was, however, an absolutely gorgeous drive, and we would not have wanted to do it any other way. I’m glad we lived to tell you what an incredible experience it was.
In Peru there is a saying that I think pretty much sums up travel in the entire country:
“A la vueltita, no mas”
Whenever you ask someone for directions they simply say, “A la vuelita, no mas.” This basically means, “Right around the corner, no farther”.
When you’re talking to someone you know and push for more details, you’ll get a response like we got from Gian Marco when we asked him about this drive. “It will take 4 hours, no mas.” I heard that and added two more hours to the estimate, just to be safe.
I figure there were about a half dozen river crossings. After the first couple, an engine warning light popped up on my dash. Something about an engine control system malfunction? Go Sprinter Go!
Although the river crossings scared Stevie, they really weren’t that bad. What scared me was this bridge. I’m no engineer, but as far as I could tell it had no real structural integrity, and what you don’t see in the photo is that the river drops off into a 500 foot cascading waterfall right below the bridge. I made Stevie and Sol walk across.
We finally made it to Cola De Mono after 8 hours on the road. Gian Marco claimed it was well within his margin of error. Fair game.
A la vueltita, no mas
After arriving, Gian Marco put us to work. We had an outdoor shower to build. He has an amazing place over there, and it is only going to get better!
He currently has the biggest and best zip lines in all of South America. Stevie and I had a blast riding the 6 different cables.
But what Gian Marco was most excited to show me was a rock cliff hiding in the jungle. He wanted to know if it would be any good for rock climbing. It was. Soon Cola De Mono will be offering rock climbing on the menu!
One of our top priorities was protecting Soleil from the mosquitos. A local man informed us that there was Dengue Fever in the area. That can straight kill a baby. Despite the heat, we kept her covered the entire time.
I was craving 100% Deet for 3 days! But since Sol is always touching us, neither Stevie or I wore any repellent, and we both ended up getting eaten alive.
(Please don’t post any comments suggesting that we use “all natural” repellent. We’ve tried it. If you think that stuff works, than you must be from Los Angeles like my wife.)
Sol faired much better and walked away with only a couple of bites, and no Dengue Fever!
She also made a ton of new friends!
Gian Marco has a new saying that I’ve adopted….
“Soleil Abre Puertas”
Translated, Soleil opens doors.
It’s true. Everywhere we go we’re interacting with wonderful people, mostly because of their interest in Sol. They all call her the same thing:
La muñeca – the doll
After 3 great days in the jungle we headed up for our grand adventure at Machu Picchu.
That’s coming up in the next post.