I have been following your journey since day-one with admiration and respect. Your travels are inspirational to say the least, and yours is one of the best ride reports ever posted on Adv!
I've spent some time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, and I can say without any hesitetion that the "back route" is the best way to reach Machu Picchu. Sure, trains can deliver you to Aguas Calientes quickly, and then you have an easy walk to the busses that take you to the entrance to MP.
From Cusco, ride to the Salt Pans of Maras (only 2 hrs, and absolutely amazing). From Maras, down the hill to Urumbamba. If you spend half the day being in awe of the thousand-year-old salt farming heratage (as I was) you can stay in Urumbamba. I stayed in a 5 Star resort there for $35.
From there, you can cross the awesome Abra de Malaga pass at 14K+ ft, make a left turn in Santa Maria, and ride to Santa Teresa (an incredible village where a mountain slide killed 60% of the town population), and store your bike there. Local cabs will take you to Hydro Electrica where it is a quick train ride to the base of Machu Picchu, Aguas Callientes.
Last year there was no extra charge for the ticket to Hyannas Picchu; it is allocated based on when you arrive at the trailhead and make your request. Due to the treacherous hike, only a limited number of hikers are permitted to attempt the climb each day. More tourists die here than nearly anyplace else in South America. Trust me, it is a sketchy hike at best, but the views are worth it if you are not surrounded by mist.
After Machu Picchu, I highly recommend the 3 hour ride to Quillabamba, a wonderful jungle village to enjoy the great food, friendly locals, and reflect on your trip to Machu Picchu.
All the Best,
poolman screwed with this post 10-08-2012 at 04:39 AM