Distance – 88km
After spending two days in Cusco preparing for the journey ahead, I thought Javier, my camera operator and support driver for the Peruvian section of the expedition, were well-organised. However, by the time we’d filmed a few scenes around the city centre, packed, picked up the hire car and set off it was already 10.30am.
The city was built long before there was a need for streets and, as a result, the city centre is a maze of narrow one-way cobblestone streets – very charming to walk around, but a nightmare for vehicles. Our B&B was on one of these narrow streets, so to load the vehicle, Javier had to stop the car in the lane and we loaded as quickly as possible while the traffic built up behind us. He then had to move on while I had to wait for the traffic to clear before I could start.
We both had the route marked on our maps, but when I turned into the street, Javier had been forced to move on. I continued on the agreed route, having lost Javier and assumed we would soon meet up once we’d navigated the laneways.
The only way out of Cusco is up and in chaotic traffic. Starting at around 3,350m elevation on the cobbles, it was a lung-busting start. I continued but regularly stopped to check my route and wondered where Javier was. The GPS on my SPOT tracker did not seem to be registering. I continued, up and up, winding through the outer suburbs. By the time we found each other – thank goodness for WhatsApp – we’d lost almost two hours. Javier’s pick-up couldn’t fit through one of the narrow streets. He then had got stuck with the one-way systems and inaccurate maps.
The episode was a wake-up call that we had to ensure our communication systems worked a little better. We kept together for the remainder of the day and stuck to the less-direct main route rather than taking the quieter bicycle route.
Out of the city, I had another 6km climb up to Chinchero (3808m) before gradually dropping through beautiful verdant green mountains, lakes and agricultural land. Due to the slow start, we had to keep moving for the rest of the day to get to Ollantaytambo before dark.
Although the climbs were intense, I reaped the rewards on the level ground and downhills – I could hardly believe the scale and beauty of this dramatic, fertile landscape.
By the time I arrived at our destination, Ollantaytambo, the altitude had dropped down to 2800m. As the town is the point where people can take the train to Machu Picchu, and it has adjacent to another Inca archeological site, the beautiful town is buzzing with tourists, mostly travelling to and from one of the seven New Wonders of the World.
Day 1 was incredible eventful but totally rewarding. I was pleased that we made it in good time (once we got going) and excited to be visiting Machu Picchu, a place I have dreamed of visiting for a long time.