Thursday, October 04, 2012

Peru: Cusco to Aguas Calientes

Each day since being here is a day closer to Machu Picchu. We had a restless sleep last night. I think the room was too hot especially when there are numerous covers on the bed - a flat top sheet, a heavy blanket, a much heavier duvet and a quilt. In addition, Robin wanted a space heater in case it got cold but it was so hot, that neither of us could sleep. I was glad when morning came.
We went for breakfast at 7am and guess what it was? Give up? See Tuesday's post. Then see Wednesday's. It was the same. At promptly 7:20, the driver came to pick us up to take us to Poroy which was about 30 minutes away. I can't tell you how excited I felt just driving to go to the train station and I had not even boarded yet. When we reached Poroy, I think I had a big grin on my face thinking that in less than 30 minutes I was going to be boarding the Vistadome train.  
When they opened the gate for boarding, I think I was the second person through. I am not sure if Robin was even behind me but he was. The girl who took the ticket had a big smile and said that we had the best seats on the train. And did we ever! We had the two front seats with a perfect window in front of us and one to the side. I think everyone on the train was envious because they had to keep coming to the front to take pictures and there we were - the two of us, just soaking it all in.
Sandra with the perfect seat at the front of the train
The train left the terminal precicely at 8:25am and I think I was a bit giddy by the time the train was about 100 metres from the station. I make myself comfortable and settled in for the 3.5 hour ride. The countryside is as I visualized it - lots of farms seemingly owned/managed by the indigenous people (based on their attire). 

Farmer tending is flock

Peruvian farm

Peruvian farm

The train passed through several small towns like this one but did not stop to pick up passengers until it got to Ollantaytambo (pronounced O-yan-tay-tambo).  
Passing through a small town
At one point, the conductor had to honk the horn quite long because two cows decided that they needed to cross the track at the same time. A few more seconds and someone would be having beef steak for dinner.
Cow crossing - almost
I sat staring out the window not wanting to even glance away in case I missed something. The terrain was spectacular and I felt that I was on some exotic journey. Then I pinched myself and reminded me that indeed I was on an exotic journey - one that I have wanted to do for many years. I could hardly believe that I was on the train travelling ever closer to Machu Picchu.

I don't know about you, but I love trains. They are so relaxing and calming and sitting there is so meditative - well except for when you are staring out the window and see some lights coming towards you and you realize it's a train coming full speed from the opposite direction. Fortunately the speed limit was only 40km per hour and there was a secondary track which our train had to move over to allow the other one to pass.
Train staring me down

I could try to describe some of the scenery but I think my vocabulary would be limited as the words are not yet written.

Rio Urubamba

Urubamba River

Mountainside terraces built by the Incas

More terraces that are now cultivated

When we stopped at Ollantaytambo to pick up some more passengers and then continue for another 1.5 hours, there was a woman selling clothes and another one selling food. It reminded me of when we were little and we used to go to De Kendren for our summer vacation. We'd stop at Mahaica and Mahaicony and we'd stick out heads out the train window and the vendors would sell us food - really good food.  
Peruvian vendor selling her clothes
 Finally at 12:00pm, the train rolled into the Aguas Calientes station. The town is also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo because except for visitors going to Machu Picchu, there is not much else going on here. For a two street town with no motorized vehicles except the buses that take you up to MP, and a couple of trucks, there are no other vehicles. In fact the streets are built with steps and ramps and all paving stones.

We left the station and of course a mercado (market) was strategically placed at the entrance so in order to leave, you are required to be mobbed by vendors trying to sell you anything from a flimsy raincoat to jewellry. We got out of the market without incident because fortunately the vendors are not aggressive and if you say no, they do not try to follow and harrass you and besides there are as many police everywhere (even in Cusco) that they wouldn't dare.

Upon exiting the market area, we had to cross over a bridge (one of three to choose from) to get into Aguas Calientes main area proper. We asked the police officer where to find our hotel and she directed us. We crossed the bridge next to her and made our way up hill to the Wiracocha Inn. The room could not have been more perfect - big and roomy and overlooking the Rio Aguas Calientes. It's as if the creator was looking out for us again and wanting to make the experience perfect.

Room at Wiracocha Inn

View from room overlooking Rio Aguas Calientes
We settled in for a quiet couple of hours and then went to scout out a place for dinner. We found one up the hill from the inn that was also overlooking the river. We got a balcony seat and ordered fish for dinner. Mine was quite mediocre - not very tasty and worse, not warm - in fact, not even cool. Just blah. Robin's was quite good so I had a bit of his. I was disappointed because so far, the food has been great. We went for another walk down and uphill and settled in for the night because we intend to be up at 4:45 to have breakfast at 5:15 and get a bus as close to 5:30 as we can. I would like to be at MP for sunrise but the guide who will be taking us tomorrow said I should not be too hopeful because it's supposed to rain and it is often cloudy when the sun is rising. Well, I am more than hopeful and I won't sleep a wink tonight just willing Pachamama (Mother Earth) to make the sun shine. It just has to. It has to. I can't come this far and not witness a Machu Picchu sunrise. And I am going to will the rain not to fall either. I'll see just how strong my will is. Pachamama won't disappoint me. Not after everything has been perfect so far.

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