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Getting to Machu Picchu!

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Visiting the world renowned archaeological site of Machu Picchu has long been on my ultimate wish list. I can’t even describe how thrilled I was when I boarded the 16 hour bus that would take me from Huacachina to Cusco, Peru. All I could think about, was that I should be wandering the famous premises in about 48 hours!

From the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, I boarded a collectivo (peruvian small van) which took me to the small mountain town of Ollantaytambo for $10 USD. The views from the bus window were stunningly beautiful, with landscapes ranging from rustic farm houses and fields, to the towering snow capped Andean mountain range. The air was super clean and crisp, seemingly untouched by pollution, and the sky was an amazing shade of blue.

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After being dropped off in the main square, I hoisted my backpack on my shoulders and went about looking for an affordable place to stay. I severely underestimated the task of walking up and down cobbled streets at a seriously high altitude of 2792 metres above sea level.

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Just when my lungs were about to burst, I stumbled upon a guesthouse called Full Moon Lodge. For $25 a night, I got a private room with a comfy bed, a nice bathroom and even internet connection! There were hammocks and dream-catchers everywhere and the family dogs were friendly and totally adorable! I freaking loved it.

Early the next morning (around 5am), I woke  up, quickly got dressed and hustled to the train station to board the Expedition Train #81 to Machu Picchu. The cost of my round-trip ticket was $130, which was fairly expensive given the relatively short ride.

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The train was punctual and interestingly decorated with lots of Andean artwork. A complimentary snack and a drink were served after our departure from Ollantaytambo. Basically, the journey took a little over an hour ,then we were pulling up at the train station in Aguas Caliente (also known as Machu Picchu Town). Aguas Caliente is your typical tourist town, so be prepared to overspend on just about everything.

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The last leg to the archaeological site was by a coaster bus which I boarded at the bus terminal for $18.50 USD roundtrip. The road up the mountain was narrow and extremely winding. We were surrounded by dense forest for the entire time, as we climbed our way further and further upwards. There were a LOT of Chinese tourists on my bus, who were fascinated with taking countless snaps of the passing bush. (I didn’t get it!)

Finally!!! I arrived onsite! At this point, I was simply too tired to be adequately excited. I joined a lengthy queue of visitors waiting to enter the grounds, and took the opportunity to give my passport an official Machu Picchu Stamp. I think that’s when it really sank in. I was here!

Stay tuned for an account of my detailed visit, coming up next!

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Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru

Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru is a great place for a fun loving person to meet awesome travelers from around the world. Mancora is predominantly a beach town in Northern Peru and it’s mainly known for its surfing conditions. Loki is situated a mere three minutes walk to the downtown area and is literally steps away from the sandy coastline. However, the visitors who book a stay here are usually younger and are always looking for the next place to party. As such, the hostel has quite a reputation for being the place to have a great time. Light sleepers should take note.

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Although it is a hostel, mostly because of the availability of shared dorm rooms, one could easily mistake the premises for a high end resort. There is a large swimming pool and an area with hammocks which is absolutely heavenly for lounging with a drink. Plus, there is a large bar area complete with a pool table and the security onsite is very efficient. All guests are required to wear special wrist bands which are checked before entry into the grounds.

I had booked a room in a six bed dormitory with an ensuite bathroom. The bed was soft with crisp and clean white linen. The bathroom was well kept and stocked with toiletries, and a very large locker was provided for the safekeeping of my bags and valuables. I spent a total of four nights at the Loki hostel, although I had originally booked for two nights. The rooms were serviced daily and I generally had no complaints.

CAMERAThe bar was a definite high point during my stay. The drinks were reasonably priced although cheaper cocktails could be had outside of the hostel. For dining, there were menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate several times at the bar, and while the food was a bit pricey, it was always well prepared and tasty. I especially enjoyed their omelettes at breakfast along with complimentary coffee and tea. Such a meal was approximately $3 USD. The bar staff would check your wristband for your room number and you would be billed upon checkout. Happy hour equals discounted drinks and there was even a BBQ one night.

Loki Hostel is a good option if you are a young (or young at heart) traveller and you are on a budget. I paid only $11 USD per night for my dorm room and it was easily worth more in my opinion. It’s perfect for solo travelers and there are private rooms for couples or families. I easily recommend.

A Bus Journey from Cuenca, Ecuador to Mancora, Peru

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Mancora is Peru’s answer to Venice Beach and Ibiza. It’s a small beach town on the Pacific coast, where many people show up for a weekend, yet end up leaving many weeks after. Mancora is still a bit underdeveloped, but I think the rough edges add to its character.  Tuk tuk drivers blare their horns in the street, vendors sell souvenirs from brightly coloured stalls and Spanish music pours of of various restaurants. It’s chaotic, but its a beautiful chaos.

Paulina, my Polish friend that I met in Ecuador, joined me for the 10+ hour overnight bus ride from Cuenca. The bus service that we used was Civa, and the ticket was only $15 USD. We crossed the border around 2 am. But while she got her stamp out of Ecuador, she didn’t remember to get her stamp into Peru! This oversight was discovered an hour or so later when the bus was stopped by police for a standard check.  The officers boarded the bus and asked to see all passports. At 3 am, most people, including us, were fast asleep. With blurry eyes, we rummaged through our backpacks for our documents and handed them over for inspection. Mine were in order, but sadly, Paulina and two others had to get off the bus with the officers.

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We had previously booked our accommodation at Loki Mancora, a wildly popular hostel, so she asked me to take her main pack to the hostel, while she took her daypack with her to God knows where.  What a welcome to Peru! The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful.  We passed by sand dunes and empty beaches, which were so starkly different to the mountainous landscapes of Ecuador.  I finally arrived to the bus station around 4 am and after hauling the luggage off the bus, I flagged down a tuk tuk to take me to the hostel.

Not the tuk tuk that dropped me off. Instead, this is shown to give a visual idea of the one that did.

It was a quick four minute ride. If I didn’t have the extra backpack, it was a distance that could have easily been covered by foot.  The most interesting part though, was the driver wanted $10 USD for the trip! I’m not sure if it it was because I was a lone female traveling the the middle of the night, but he had the balls to try to rip me off. I pretended as though I didn’t have exact change. I tried to give him the equivalent of $3 which was still too much. He had the heart to refuse, so I stopped caring.

I told him that I would ask reception to change a bigger bill, and I rapped the gate. The driver started to look nervous and agitated. However, I was bluffing. If I disappeared through the gates… You better believe that there was zero chance of me coming back and I think he realized this. Soon, a security guard appeared to let me in. At this point, the driver changed his mind, accepted my $3 and drove off. HA!

Despite this unfortunate start to my Peru travels, I checked into my room and settled in for what was left of the night. I had to pay a little extra for the early check in, but it wasn’t anything much. Hoping that Paulina would show up later in the day, I fell into a deep sleep. My journey had lasted over 12 hours, and that’s enough to knock anyone out cold. Backpacking is harder than most people give it credit for, but the highs make all the lows worth it!