Tomorrow I’ll be visiting a silver mine in Potosi, probably with an agency run by former miners.
The internet says that most workers die in their forties. I wonder if that’s true even for the ones who start their ‘career’ at 15.
The working conditions and the primitive tools used for the extraction of the ore haven’t changed much since the Spanish colonial times.
The rock contains asbestos and silicon; the water falling from the ceiling arsenic and cyanide. Yumm!
Hitler can envy the slaughter of slaves which took place here. About 8 millions slaves, both africans and indigenous , died in those mines in the last few centuries.
Mines are owned by a cooperative of miners and miners are self employed.
I’d really like to know the price – ad who makes the price – of the silver ore. I’d like to know the chain of economic forces that allows the same old threat: work or health.
I’ll be a tourist. Tours can teach, and they might help the world to know about those places and people; besides, miners expect you to bring some small presents – coca leaves, gloves, dynamite kits, some bottles of soda. Not much different from charity – but still an improvement over their conditions. Unfortunately, Tours must include touristic stuff and fun moments – like a cool dynamite explosion at the end of the tour. So that you always remember who you are: a tourist soon getting back to his comfortable life.
And after that, let’s go to the Salar de Uyuni with some other other optimistic smiling backpackers – so focused on their life experience, to shoot pics while jumping.
I sometimes get why so many Bolivian people seem not to like tourists.
There’s just one Machu Picchu in the world. And only one reliable mean of transportation to get there: a train.
That makes for a fabulous monopoly, and the possibility to get dirty easy money from tourists.
So, I’ll provide you some basics about Machu Picchu and then explain you some of the alternative routes to get to Machu Picchu.
But first, let me recommend you the grungy, friendly, cheap hostel “Let’s go Bananas“. in Cuzco. That’s where I was provided all the useful infos on how to get to Machu Picchu – and where I found several other people to join me and Damian in the adventure. “Let’s go bananas” is also a bar – so you can go there for a coffee, a breakfast or a fruit juice.
First of all, a look at the map just to get an idea.
View Macchu Picchu in a larger map
The nearest village to Machu Picchu is Aguas Calientes, at about one hour and a half walking distance.
You’re going to spend at least one night there.
You can’t see it from the map, but it’s a really narrow valley, and Aguas Calientes is connected to the rest of the world only through a railway and through hiking trails.
In fact, this post is basically about how to get to Aguas Calientes from Cuzco. I haven’t mentioned it – but ure enough, you’re starting from Cusco.
As I said, no road (and hence, no car) arrive in Aguas Calientes.
The nearest roads arrive at two points: Hydroelectrica, a power plant 12kms away from Aguas Calientes, or in Piscakucho, a little place where the Inca Trail begins.
Hence, you get at least three possibilities
- Take the train. Easy and expensive. You are reading this post exactly to avoid the train. Estimated price: 50 US$
- Take a bus From Cuzco to Santa Maria, a “colectivo” from Santa Maria to the Hydroelectrica power station, and walk for 12 km to Aguas Calientes, Estimated price: S/.30-40
- The hard way: take a bus to Ollyatatambo, and from there a “colectivo” to the start of the Inca Trail. There you will walk for 28 km along the railway until Aguas Calientes. That’s what we did. Estimated price: S/.13
Other options might be possible. For example, we found a van bringing us directly from Hydroelectrica to Cuzco for S/.30.
Cuzco – Aguas Calientes via Ollantaytambo
- Get To Ollantaytambo by bus or colectivo. I’ll try to update the post with more details about this. You should take one before 6 am so that you can start walking at about 9am on the railway. It should cost less than S/.15.Stop at the market; it’s worth a visit and you can have a cheap breakfast. Coffee, bread, marmalade and eggs for about S/.3
- From Ollantaytambo market, get a colectivo to Piscakucho – or just ask for the km 82 of the railway. they will understand.
- You’ll have to walk 28km: from km. 82 of the railway to km. 110. Don’t take the Inca trail; you have to pay for it. You’ll need to walk inside at least 4 tunnels; they are not long, but it wouldn’t be fun at all if a train arrived when we were in.
- The first 10km are completely on the railway. Be careful as you might not hear the train coming! Also, while tolerated, walking on railways is in theory illegal. To get you an idea, locals work along the railway and regularly walk on it. On the railway from Aguas Calientes to Hydroelectrica, soldiers would salute us with friendly smiles.
- The remaining 18 km are better, as you can walk along a path. It’s also possible to buy some food and drinks on the way; but buying in Cuzco is cheaper
Aguas Calientes – Cuzco via Santa Maria
This post is really detailed about how to do the Santa Maria way. We actually did something different, as we could find (by chance) a van that brought us directly to Cuzco. And this is about getting back from Aguas Calientes. You can just do it in the reverse order to get from Aguas Calientes to Cuzco.
- Walk for 12 km on the railway, from Aguas Calientes to Hydroelectrica
- You will probably find a bunch of vans and some dozens of tourists; just ask. it’s usually S/.15 to get to Santa Maria. The road is crazy! And when it rains a lot, it might be closed. Ouch!
- In Santa Maria there are minibuses to Cuzco for about 25 soles. It’s a 4 hour ride.
From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
You can get a bus for approximately 10 US$ to Machu Pichu. But that’s not for you. You want to walk up the hill for about one hour and a half.
- Machu Picchu on the cheap, Matador network
- The cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu, Chanatrek
- Cheapest way to do Machu Picchu, Trip Advisor Forum
I travel with a ridicolously big mochila (backpack).
And I have so much more at home!
I sometimes feel my travel experience would be so much better without all those things I bring with me, and that I belong to my stuff much more than my stuff belongs to me.
Getting to know the existence of Richard Roberts, who lives outdoors and always carries with him all of his belongings in his everyday life, gave me a new perspective and made me feel quite stupid.
Richards tunes pianos and lives outdoors in London, all his belongings being a bicicle, smartphone, and little more.
This kind of living makes it possible to work less, save more money and be healthier in both body and mind. And is oh so distant from consumism.
He reminds me of Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica‘s speech about the relationship between sustainable development and human happiness.
I find ‘s experiment extremely fascinating; while it’s not something everyone could do, it’ definitely an original and innovative way of living.
He got rid of (or he did not have) many socially accepted addictions and shows how it’s possible to live a sustainable life out of very little.