Cusco Creates Bridezilla-like Backpackers

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Day 307: Cusco, Peru

Working at the hostel bar I’ve spent hours listening to the same conversations.

Many times they are where you from? how long have you been traveling? when will it stop raining in Cusco?

but then inevitably veer toward talking about Machu Picchu – the reason everyone is here.

You see most people fall into one of two camps:
1) They bought a tour in their home country and realized they paid 5 times what they could have paid here
2) They haven’t bought their ticket yet and are determined to find the best tour company for the best price

And while you may feel sorry for the first group I actually feel sorry for the second.

They become these anxiety-ridden, bridezilla-like travelers who think that Machu Picchu has to be a life changing experience and they must avoid any and all disappointments.

I have eavesdropped on so many anxious and frantic conversations between couples and friends who cannot agree on what tour company to go with and if they should continue comparison shopping.

They are spending two weeks in Peru and everything needs to be perfect.

Should they do the Lares Trail the Salkanay Trail, should they just take the train – what is the best way? Bitching…fighting…bickering…bullying…

This is madness.

Yes I’ve seen the photos.

I know it’s one of the new wonders of the modern world.

But really?

If it rains, if they don´t make it up Wayna Picchu the trip will be ruined. How will Incan ruins ever live up to their expectations?

These people need to chill out.

I don’t know, am I the only one who doesn’t see what the big fuss is about?

Join the Conversation

  1. Interesting! I did the Inca Trail last year and really didn’t agonize over it too much. There seemed to be 2 companies that were the most highly recommended, they had slightly different schedules and we went with the one we liked the most. Pretty simple.

    What they all need to realize is there’s only so much you can control and you just have to make the best of whatever happens. We went in late November, the start of the rainy season. So it rained some every day, half my pictures were full of clouds and we only got about 2 hours at Machu Picchu before we were overtaken by a torrential downpour. Not exactly what I expected or hoped for, but it was still a great experience.

    1. Katie I´m also expecting clouds – no grey skies for me!

  2. Rishe - Off Track Planet says:

    Oh man, you just confirmed my worst fears… WHEN (not If, this is a WHEN for me because it’s top of my bucket list) I make it over there, I am so going to be in Group Number Two, and tear my hair out and the hair of all those who dare to accompany me in ridiculous frenzied frustration.

    So I have an idea for you.. how about you check it out for us, let us know the best trip – and that is precisely which one I’ll do WHEN (yes, when..) I make it. Woot!


    1. I think there can be a group number 3. I´ve just arrived but I´m not going to let the craziness get to me.

  3. Janet newenham says:

    This post reminds me of the video Gap Yah…where this rich, poncy English guy travels the world but simply ends up ruining all the magical moments by chundering everywhere! You should check it out!

  4. South America ME says:

    I bet people get frustrated too when they can’t get the clear-blue-sky shot they had always pictured in their head!
    Rob W.

  5. All I have to say is …what a beautiful picture….very misty looking and mysterious with such a lush green look of velvet.

  6. Michael Hodson says:

    I just bought a train ticket up there, spent the night, got up way before dawn the next day and wandered around myself. Was a fabulous day.

  7. So you don’t wanna go see it?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Of course I want to see it!

  8. I’m glad we just took care of it before we left. It was just one thing we thought we’d splurge on since it was so high on our list. Yes, we may have paid 5x as much to hike the Classic Inca Trail than alternative treks, but it was important to us to be at the Sun Gate when the sun came up. Being in November made it risky because of rain, but we got lucky.

    And I do understand people being stressed about it. Honestly, walking through the Sun Gate as the sun was rising and seeing Machu Picchu for the first time is one of the highlights of not only my year-long trip, but of my life. It was that awesome.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah it´s interesting how paying more may help you have a less stressful time.

  9. We were so knackered after the hike up there the place could have collapsed onto our heads and we wouldn’t have cared. Thoroughly worth it though once some oxygen reaches the brain.

  10. The NVR Guys says:

    Your not.

    What you are speaking to is a problem that runs very deep and wide. It’s the problem of allowing external factors to dictate your happiness.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I would hate for a bit of rain to ruin someone´s trip that they had planned for a year. Although coming here in February you need to be prepared for rain. Every. Day.

  11. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler says:

    This reminds me of our Halong Bay tour in Vietnam. Everybody pays completely different prices and everybody wants to compare what they paid. I can’t imagine being in group number 2 and squabbling over money. Just buy the tickets and go!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah it is a lot like Halong Bay although people don´t seem to have as high expectations – or at least I didn´t.

  12. Cathy Sweeney says:

    I like what the NVR Guys said. Couldn’t have said it better.

  13. Michael Figueiredo says:

    Very interesting perspective, Ayngelina. I am hoping to see Machu Picchu in 2012 with my sister and hope I don’t fall into either category! So, why haven’t you gone up yet?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I definitely am going, I chose to work at the hostel so that I can give myself a few days to figure out what´s right for me.

  14. Machu Picchu is on my list, but I can’t imagine agonizing over prices or bickering over deals. I don’t like to be stressed when I travel. If I’m going to take a tour, I’ll do a bit of research, pick one, pay for it, and never look back.

    And if the weather sucks, well, I’m sure there will still be some beauty in it anyway.

    Many travelers are so obsessed with getting that perfect photo or having that “perfect” experience that they totally ruin it for themselves. There are some things outside of your control when you travel, and the sooner you accept that, the more enjoyable traveling will be!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Totally agree Amanda, my photos will likely be fog and rain and I´m okay with that.

  15. For some people, the appeal of Machu Picchu is not the ruins themselves but the hike they take to get there. For some, it’s a great attraction to see but probably not life changing. For others, it is the hike and the experience of getting there that makes it more rewarding.

    I have yet to go but will one day (my sis in law is from a mountain town in Peru – not far from Cusco). However, I look at it like many trips I have taken. The most memorable experiences involved the little moments in the journey rather than the destination (or monument, museum, etc) itself. For those that make Machu Picchu a destination and journey, then I think it is life changing.

    1. “For some, it’s a great attraction to see but probably not life changing.” – I meant to say that these are the ones that are complaining

  16. We just bought our train tickets online and hit the road. For us, tours are usually over-rated and best avoided though I understand why they appeal to some. It’s a lot easier! I hope for good weather for your visit, we weren’t very lucky and visited on a foggy day in April. The visit was still well worth it but I wouldn’t call it life changing. The bad weather just made us appreciate the other perfect days we had on our trip even more.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I also usually skip tours, right now the biggest concern for people seems to be if they should hike it or just take the train.

  17. Sounds like an interesting experience 🙂 Pausing for a while and looking at travel from the outside sure can be an eye opener before getting back in the flow.

    Chasing an experience that you hope will change your life can be a folly. Change comes from within 🙂 As the NVR Guys put it so succinctly.

  18. Agreed. When we went to see the Big Buddha in Hong Kong it was super hazy and really cloudy. We couldn’t see the top of the statue and I heard so many people around us upset that they’ll never get to see it in person- whole trip ruined, blah blah. Bob and I thought it was kind of fun… like the buddha was mysteriously hiding from us and every once in a while when the winds would blow the clouds, we’d get a short little peek of the whole thing.
    I’d rather make the day enjoyable no matter what happens than be disappointed!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It almost seems that sometimes the photo is more important than the experience.

  19. I’m with Carmie above. What a great picture. So many natural wonders are much better in the rain – it sharpens the colours, the scents…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks Sophie, my mother is my biggest fan 🙂

      1. I completely glossed over the photo and focused on the words. My mistake! I agree it’s a lovely shot!

  20. When I went to Uyuni last year, and took the 3 day tour (when you are in Bolivia, I recomend it!), it was winter and very cold (july) and the lakes were frozen. We had some car trouble and couldn’t make it to the ‘laguna verde’, which they say is very beautiful, but we didn’t really care, and our guide said that it would be white anyway because it was frozen.
    But one girl in the car got really crazy because she had to see it, and because she came all the way from Europe to see it…and she started crying and everything.

    Some people really get crazy, I try to have more a mentality of not expecting ‘anything’, and then things amazes you haha. I had a blast in Bolivia, and while Uyuni is wonderfull, the good memories envolve the ones with people.

    By the way, I am a bit of a geek, so I do get excited about inca ruins haha. I drool while wathing the history channel – lol, I love the mysterie that involves the past.
    I hope you’ll tell us if it is overrated or not after you take the trip!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I´m heading to Bolivia in a couple of months and I heard people get as frantic – interestingly I heard the chance of getting a shoddy tour is high as well.

      1. I had to cross the border because of some visa issues (don’t ask… after 5 years hehe), so my bf and I took a bus to the border la Quiaca-Villazon, and while waiting for the train in Villazon, we entered the little agency that was in front to see what we could do and after counting our money, we just bought the tour there. It turned out that in Uyuni there are a lot of companies, and most of them follow the same route…they stop in the same places to eat, in the same places to rest…

        We travelled with Imperio Inca. I don’t know if it’s the best, nor if it’s the cheapest, but we were happy. Our guide was a really nice guy who loved to talk (spansih ;)) and when the girl got upset because she couldn’t see the laguna verde, he tried to make it up by showing us some other places. And the agency itself had someone waiting for us in Uyuni when we arrived at almost midnight to get us to the hotel, although it was only two blocks away. They also took care of booking our train back to Villazon and had the tickets waiting for us when we came back from the tour

        If you talk to the girl I mentioned, she’ll say it sucked, if you ask the rest of us, we loved it…

        ps: I’m curious, have you tried ‘hojas de coca’ yet?

  21. Migrationology says:

    Chill out is right! Being flexible and adapting to any current situation is key in traveling and remaining in a great mood when things don’t go according to plan.

  22. I didn’t do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu when I was there and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Sure it would have been a great experience, but I climbed up Putukusi instead and that was a great experience for me. Sure, thousands of people can say that they’ve trekked the Inca Trail, but how many have even heard of Putukusi?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I haven´t! Going to check out your post.

  23. Sorry but I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of some people. If they’re concentrating so much on finding the right tour for Machu Picchu to get this almighty spiritual experience, they’re trying way too hard.

    Sometimes I think there’s so much emphasis on ‘the right way to do things as a traveler’ rather than actually just doing what feels right. It depresses me.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      People do get so anxious I wonder if they enjoy it.

  24. Fascinating! I was in the first group, overpaid before coming, and I remember sitting on that mountain top forever waiting for the sunrise to get my perfect shot. Yeah, it was cloudy all morning. But it was still so much fun! I agree with a lot of the comments here that people place too much emphasis on a “perfect” trip, instead of just enjoying what’s there.
    Thanks for the great post!

  25. Ayngelina Author says:

    I wouldn´t worry about being in Camp 1, if you had a great trip it was worth it.

  26. Ayngelina Author says:

    You´re not alone. A lot of people have problems with tour companies not following through, which I think adds to the craziness of people wanting to find a company that won´t disappoint.

  27. Considering I didn’t use a tour company. . . LOL Backzillas. Or as someone else called similar people: tourons. They’ve lost the whole point, the whole part of adventure. They’re really missing out.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Backzillas, I love it!

  28. Haha, you’re right. People get nuts over it! I did the hike, it was awesome. Great weather, great group. But it would’ve been cool even in the rain.

    People make way too big of a fuss about it! And yes, sadly we were in Camp 1. Whatevs though, it was awesome!

  29. My friend and I actually had to use a tour company because we went right after Machu opened last year (it closed during the floods/landslides). We thought it was going to be hard to get tours in Cusco which wasn’t the case. I would have booked from another company though because we didn’t have a good experience with SAS Travel. There were a lot of mishaps before getting to Machu and to top it off our guide left us at the bottom of Machu Picchu and didn’t bother to look for us. Unfortunately, that’s when I became a bridezilla-like tourist =( However, I got over it when I saw how beautiful the place was it has been my lifelong dream to get there!

  30. It stressed me out just reading about their frantic worries and comments. 🙂 I’m sure it must be gorgeous under perfect conditions, but I like the eerie beauty of the clouds, fog and rain. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah the weather is so bad here I won’t be getting any blue sky shots but it’s about the experience not the photo.

  31. Cheryl Howard says:

    Agree! People should chill out … it’s easier said then done … but when I miss seeing something, I resolve to return someday.

    When I was staying on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, I wanted to go to Capri for a swimming and snorkeling adventure, The weather was so bad each day (and I was there for 4 days( that it never happened. No biggie!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I love maracuya sours! I´ve learned to make them while working at the hostel – so good!

  32. Ha! I tend to think of myself as an achievement-oriented traveler, but I realize I must be kinder to myself. I spent a couple of years planning a trip to Tanzania. The goal was to climb Kili. I got gear, worked out, read up, had it alllll planned out — but when we got there, the (then) bf (now hubby) got deathly food poisoning and couldn’t go. I only got a mild case and could, in theory, have carried on as another member of our party did. But I didn’t. And it was ok. We ended up changing our plans and still had one hell of a great time! Sometimes the alternate option turns out to be better for you. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Wow Katrina, if you can overcome the disappointment of that then any future mishaps must seem so small.

      1. I truly believe these things work out for the best one way or another. The other person in our party who went had a transformative experience on the mountain, so I’m glad for him. As for us, we went to Zanzibar early and spent some time being pampered in a resort (had never done that before). Some of my best memories are from the day we went out snorkeling around a coral reef and riding in a dhow. Would not have had the opportunity if we’d done the climb. The glaciers on Kili are melting, but the mountain itself is still there should we decide to attempt again. 🙂

        1. Ayngelina Author says:

          Amazing way to look at things and you are right, the mountain is always there.

  33. Ken Kaminesky says:

    I get disappointed all the time when I travel. Bad weather, too many tourists, no tripods allowed, plagues of locusts and so many other things get in the way of me being able to take photos.

    Since there is nothing I can do, I suck it up, get wet, cold, wait patiently and as for the locusts… What does one do in that case? Seriously? With my luck it’s bound to happen and I wanna be prepared! But I digress. It is kinda normal that people would be sad if they missed the chance to see the Incan Ruins. But since I never use tour companies I can’t comment on this particular aspect of your post. Is there no other way to get up to Machu Picchu, other than going with a tour group?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Absolutely, none of the tours like to tell you this but you can do it all independently. It’s a bit tricky but a lot of travelers on a really tight budget do it.

  34. I’ve never been there but i would want it to be perfect when I saw it! haha but I am pretty easy going with picking companies, I kind of just pick the first one I see with a good price. I definitely would wait until I got there to buy though 🙂 Possibly you can recommend the best trip?haha

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I will definitely let you know how I feel about my trip, although the first thing I’d recommend is not to go in February as the weather here is pretty miserable.

  35. Man, I feel like I’ve been duped. I was under the understanding that all tours fill up like 3-4 months ahead of time!

    While backzillas will drive me insane, it does give me a sense of comfort knowing that I will be able to find something for us.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If you want to do the Incan Trail you do have to buy 4-5 months in advance and pay a hefty fee but there are lots of other trails to the site that you can buy last minute and are only $200-300.

  36. Seattle Dredge says:

    I didn’t really know where to comment for your ‘about me’ section, so I thought I’d just skip to your latest post.

    Just wanted to say that I love your blog! It’s so nice to see other Canadians out there traveling, and writing about it!

    Maybe I’ll see you around Toronto some time if you ever head back this way! :]

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m hoping to come back in June for a visit, are you in the Toronto Tribal group?

  37. I was in camp 1 for MP, but paid just 2 or 3 times the price I should’ve paid 😛 I was there during high season and wanted to get in and out of Peru pretty quickly so I could spend the bulk of my trip in Bolivia. It was really pleasant to not have to work out the details. I also heard good things from fellow hostelers who booked last minute jungle trail treks.

    I’m not sure why people expect that MP will be so life changing and think they need to do it in a certain way or else they will be missing out on something huge. I think a lot of marketing has gone into creating a mindset that the Inca Trail is THE way to see MP… all that focus on one trail and one archaeological site is not very sustainable and a little ridiculous. But an overeager travel consumption mentality is hard to reason with.

    MP is very photogenic and I’m glad I went, but didn’t think it was anything worth getting one’s panties in a jumble about!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Completely agree that people think if it´s not the Inca Trail and Wayna Picchu somehow they´ve missed out. It´s really sad that one site can get people so worked up.

  38. It happen sometime traveling may not work so well with mother nature. But you just had to deal with it. I remember I went Vetican and I had to wait almost 2 hours outside in pouring rain. I was so cold and even though I had umbrella I was still wet. But when I finally get in, I totally forget all about the bad cold weather I just had.I think we all just need to try to deal with it and make the most out of every thing that may happen. I haven’t visit Peru yet, but I would love to later on.

  39. I think that is the problem with places like Machu Picchu, there are so many things that can alter the experience that are totally out of your control but there is so much pressure to have the BEST TRIP EVER. I think sometimes you just have to make a decision and go with it.

  40. Your pictures are beautiful. Maybe you should consider a career in that?

  41. Thanks Ayngelina, if we ever get there we’ll not be worrying about which tour is cheapest- just knowing we’re there will be all we’ll be focussing on. Meantime, there’s plenty of other wonderful places to see in this world.

  42. Even the opportunity to see those things is a gift in life – one that many people don’t have. Why ruin it with anxiety, not worth it 🙂

  43. I would be pretty excited to see Machu Picchu but life is not always convenient or ideal and sometime you just have to go with the flow. If you aren’t Peruvian, you’re lucky to be ther. Period.

  44. I am really looking forward to Machu Picchu on my year-long journey. And I am already agonizing… not about the right tour company but about the hordes of crazy people I imagine are lined up and pushing their way in all trying to get the perfect photo. I try not to be “that guy,” but maybe I will also succumb to the fever.

  45. Claire Gibson says:

    Never been to Machu Picchu (yet!) but I reeeaaaallly just like the title of this post!

  46. Meow – sounds like all that rain is starting to get to you. Should have gone to Chile with me 🙂

  47. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    I kinda went through the same thing when I was in Beijing and didn’t do the great wall. I honestly just couldnt be bothered. I was sick of doing touristy things and just wanted to hang out.

  48. Ayngelina,
    I think you need to stay in a quieter hostal…one without too many backpackers. They are driving you batty.
    I hope the rain stops for you.

  49. Interesting. I saw a little of that is Cusco too… but my personal experience in Cusco was mainly of nearly every single backpacker trashing the classic “Inca Trail” hike (hostel owners too!) Overpriced. Overrated. Blah blah blah. My heart kind of sank at first, because I’d shown up in town with a reservation with one of the more respected and ethical (and also expensive) companies. Long story short, I discovered that most of the people bashing the inca trail (as well as Machu Picchu!) had never hiked it. I quickly discovered that most people either A) couldn’t afford it, and therefore had to bash it to feel better about not being able to do it themselves or B) were the type of backpacker who trashes *anything* famous or touristy. I hiked it a few days later, and can say that it was probably *the* highlight of my 8 month trip around Latin America and Africa. One of the highlights of my life. Sorry if this comment is a little off topic… I just think I can relate to the “feelings” Cusco and the bridezilla backpackers evoked for you, even if there was slightly different triggers.

  50. Oh my gosh! In recent weeks, Kevin and I have turned into Galapagos tour-planning bridezillas! You are absolutely correct. We just need to get there. We’ll see some amazing animals and have a great time– no need to fret!

    We never did a tour when we went to Machu Picchu, but similarly Kevin was DEVASTATED when we couldn’t get tickets to hike Wayna Picchu! But then we hiked Machu Picchu mountain and it was great! (We didn’t learn, obviously)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If I can offer any solace, I did make it up to Wayna Picchu. It is not a big deal whatsoever. I actually got better photos from other points on site.

      1. Sorry, being a bridezilla is just in my nature, I guess. I feel sorry for Cassie, who has to put up with me.

        Also, I would say that Machu Picchu Mt was a VERY big deal. The views from there are absolutely amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s up for a little hike.

  51. Pingback: Why I Hate The Phrase "Once-In-A-Lifetime" | Ever In Transit
  52. I’ve been in Cusco two months so far and I’ve been amazed at all the beautiful ruins easily accessible within a day or an afternoon from the city! Sacsayhuaman is incredible and it’s just right on the hillside. Chinchero and Ollantaytambo were other favorites of mine, and they don’t break the bank. Now I know they aren’t Machu Piccu, but it’s worth noting that there are so many options for people.

  53. Agree with this a lot. Cusco is a gong show. Way, way overpriced treks to Machu Picchu are just not worth it. I spent two days trying to organize a solo walk to MP. In the end I just didn’t feel it. Just didn’t care. It is a tourist trap of the worst kind. So I left. Went elsewhere, got the hell out of Peru, and enjoyed the rest of my time away from shit shows like this.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If you ever want to go back I highly recommend Northern Peru, it seems that other than Mancora and sandboarding no one ever spends time up there but there are many ruins and most are older than the Inca.

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