There are two traditional ways from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The most famous is the Inca trail, a four or five day trek through wet forest and mountain, ending at the old Incan city. The easier route is the train. Both options are expensive. A little research suggested there was a third way, an affordable way, and there is. Hydroelectrica.
This involves going to a bus station early in the morning, not sure which one since I went to the wrong one and had to take a taxi from there to an obscure station in Cusco. Then getting a bus to Santa Maria. The bus is scheduled to leave at 7:45 am. However, it doesn’t leave until it’s full. We were still sitting in the station parking lot at 8:30, the driver ignoring the shouts of “vamos, vamos,” from all the passengers. Around 8:45 the bus was finally full and we set off.
At the small town Santa Maria I got off and got a collectivo (shared taxi) to another town called Santa Teresa. Then in Santa Teresa, I met one Chilean guy and we got a different collectivo up a hydro-electric plant. Hydroelectrica. This is right by the train tracks heading towards Machu Picchu. From there, the options are to buy a much cheaper train ticket, or a three hour walk alongside the tracks. Pablo (the Chilean) and I opted to walk. We did it in about 2.5 hours, because he ran a sports company in Patagonia and was very fit, and I just about managed to keep up with him, chatting along in my mediocre Spanish.
The town by Machu Picchu is now called Machu Picchu pueblo, but was previously Aguas Calientes, and everyone still calls it Aguas Calientes*. We got to a hostel around 6:30 pm, booked a room (separate beds), had dinner and crashed. I have no idea how anyone does the Inca trail, one full day of the hydroelectrica trail was enough for me.
*Meaning hot waters, a reference to the natural thermal pools in the village.