Whisper it quietly but beyond Machu Picchu lies another Peru. One that we at Amazonas Explorer love to discover and share.
Yes, Machu Picchu is worth flying across the globe to see. Yes, Machu Picchu really is a wonder of the world. But what many forget is that Peru is so much more than just Machu Picchu. In the same way that England is more than Buckingham Palace, San Francisco is more than a bridge and Wales is more than the Millennium Stadium.
What really excites us, what we spend our free time doing, is finding new places to visit and finding new ways to get to the places that everyone visits. And to do this you need to get off the bus. We use self-powered travel, to get to the heart of rural Peru, a Peru beyond the crowds, beyond the car parks, a Peru beyond Machu Picchu. Yet you do not have to go on a big trip to get there. The real Peru begins right on our doorstep, closer than you think. And all it requires to get there is a little effort and a little knowledge.
Twenty minutes walking or ten minutes biking from the crowds of buses visiting the main Cusco ruins, lie Inca sites few from Cusco, let alone tourists have ever explored. An Inca prison and rounded colonial bread kilns that we discovered long ago whilst out mountain biking. A hand-built Inca canal, which appeared to be just another small stream until running a new trail we were forced to wade across. Only there, stood in the stream as the cool water lapped our ankles was the Inca stonework revealed.
Moray and Maras are just another two sights on a long list unless you get out of the bus and link them by foot, horse or bike. If you dare to do so, you will meet locals working their fields, tending their sheep, or shading under a tree with a glass of chicha. Even Pisac ruins- visited by hundreds of tourist each day, has secrets to offer if you just walk away from the bus. Ten minutes past the end of the tourist circuit lives a whole community of people.
So yes, come to Peru to see Machu Picchu. But think carefully about what kind of Peru you want to see. Is it the same Peru that most companies will show you? Where you pull up on a bus with hundreds of others? Where the only locals you meet are the ones selling souvenirs? Or is it rural Peru, real Peru, a Peru beyond Machu Picchu -where you need a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of effort?
We will provide the knowledge if you provide the effort.
P.S. I am writing just half an hour outside Cusco. Hills fill the horizon; wind rustles through the ruins where an Inca was born; a kestrel glares from a post above, and a pair of oxen have just run into the garden chased by a man from whose wooden plow they have escaped. That to me in Peru.