The entire adventure was sparked from six sentence. These six, simply written, grammatically questionable sentences were the collective 'research' from two sources, the first "Alternatives to the Inca Trail" and the other "Extreme Shoestring Travel Blog 121". This was all the information in existence about a 'cheap' way to reach Machhu Picchu. This was all it took.
For a little background, Machhu Picchu is deep in the jungle. Due to the excessive tourism, the traditional path to the ruins is expensive to normal folks. But considerable more expensive to dirtbag, shoestring travelers with with pennies to our name. Ian and I were determined to find another way. So we begin searching. After two days, hours on the blogs and countless conversations with locals, we had found only six sentences outlining an alterative. It was a brief explaination. Frankly, explaination might be too stong of word. The brief hint of an alternative was little more than an allure. But we were determined. In absences of information, we were fueled by blind confidence. A combination enshuring either a grand adventure or a rapid path to catastrophe.
The six sentences spoke of a trek deep within the Peruvian jungle. It spoke of a journey far away from our comfortable existence of hostels and eateries. It spoke of crossing a river that had, literally, claimed lives. Under a picture of a raging river it read, "In order to cross the river you've got to balance yourself on a steel platform attached to a large cable, suspended above the raging river. As you pull yourself across hand by hand, try to put out of mind those who have lost their lives in the crossing". Short, sweet, effective. We had found our path to Machu Picchu.
There was a way into Machu Picchu, it was cheap, it was involved, it was a mystery and best of all, it was set in a jungle with path to an ancient lost civilization. All criterion met for an Indian Jones adventure, minus the Sallah and the hat. The six sentences provided more questions than answer. But they were burnt into our minds taunting us to pursue. They embodied out tattered treasure map. There was a clear start, where we sat plotting in our comfortable hostle Cucso, and the X was evident but parts in-between were far from clear. In the absence of information, it left more to the imagination. I read those simple 6 setence over and over as I packed our bag from Cusco. I read them until I memorized them and then I read them again. I reached deep into the subcontext of the measly paragraph, and I felt no more prepared.
The journey started with 15 hour bus ride and 5 hours of moutainous hiking through villages to arrive in a town with what locals generously described as a 'shuttle'. When a rusty old van driving by a 15 year old local peruvain came barreling into town, we knew our ride had arrived. We pilled into the back with a dozen other locals, giving an undersized clown car a run of space maximization. The door slid shut and out teenage drive stomped on the gas. A dirt cloud sprung up behind us and we went barrling forward on an abused old road cut narrowly into the edge of a wide valley. Packed in the middle of the van, I was without a view of the passing landscape. Ian was not so lucky. I glanced toward him to see repressed horror on his face. He was reacting to the whir of the landscape flying by. Even the typically calm and collected Ian, was unable to hind the fatal potential of this shuttle ride. We were barrelling along at 50 mph, wheels just 6 inches from a 200 foot drop into a boulder scattered canyon. I asked what was wrong and started laughing ingnorantly at his description, now slightly less disspoint I wasn't wedged agaist a window to enjoy the view.
The single-lane, dirt road was poorly etched in the side of a gravely mountain-side. This portion of the trek was a connecting path between the small town of Santa Teresa and an industrial hydro electrical plant. Just one leg of our journey. This was nothing more than a local workers access road. A windy, two-way, one lane, no speed limit, dirt road with many blind turns and many wash outs. Our 15 year old driver exuded confidence. Or maybe that was enthusiastic disregard. He showed such little concern for the dire situation to a degree that taking his eyes off the radio while barreling around a blind corner would have been a burden. The gas gauge on light-grey dashboard hung squarely in the "E". I considered the sliverlining of "low tank=small explosion". At least my body could be identified if our tire moved about 2 inches to the left and we sped into the ravine below. I found myself laughing because there was little else I could do. I had chosen to laugh so I wasnÂ´t forced to count the endless ways in which I my life could be over in a unpleasant chain of events resulting in a fiery explosive death. Our teenage driver clear aimed to up the anti by take blind turns into oncoming traffic going 40 mph. This was necessary because driving fast on a single-lane path is not nearly interesting to pique our drivers interest. He wanted to add head on collision and inattentive driving to the mix.
Despite our drivers best efforts, we did make it.
Now we were off to the jungle...