Cuzco and the train ride to Aguas Calientes

The solo avo is in South America. It’s like a dream come true. I’m sitting in Poroy train station waiting for the train to Machu Pichu.
We arrived in Cuzco late last evenin,g after far to many hours in far too many airplanes. But it was better than most trips. Sydney to Auckland was consumed by the quick crossword from the Australian, followed by a sleep. As we were travelling business class the extravagance was amazing. Table clothes, great food, alcohol as desired and a flat bed. Very quickly we were in Auckland and had a quick walk around before re-boarding. The flight from Auckland to Santiago was fantastic. More food with great service, 2 champagnes (French so it really was champagne), and sleep. With a doona and a pillow. Flying into Santiago we got our first sight of the snow capped peaks of the Andes. Fortunately we didn’t have to collect our bags so we just connected to Lima. None of our lay overs were too long and none of our flights were delayed. Santiago to Lima, in premium economy with another sleep and yet more food. Food, food, food. And yet I still felt hungry at times. I think my stomach has stretched! Finally Lima to Cuzco and it’s official, I’m over this flying lark.

Arriving in Cuzco was like stepping back in time. A run down arrivals hall, with 2 old luggage belts, no staff in sight. Fortunately our luggage turned up and we grabbed a cab bound for our hotel. The streets of Cuzco are narrow and winding and the traffic goes the wrong way and people drive on the wrong side of the road. So, the taxi ride, whilst not eventful was very interesting. It ended with Raoul driving in reverse down a step road for more than a couple of hundred metres to leave us at the door. Sylvia greeted us and had us in our room in no time. The hotel was very very good for a three star and I’m thrilled we are going back there after this side trip. We had a good meal in the Inca Grill but I felt quite unwell, with residual motion sensations and a headache. It’s hard to know what could be attributable to altitude and what is the result of hours of travelling, but a good nights sleep has helped to clear most of it. Along with panadol, ibuprofen, coffee and breakfast. I forgot how good puffed wheat tastes.

Now, here we are in the train station waiting with the masses to go to Machu Picchu. Raoul bought us down here and will be waiting with a cute sign with our names on it when the train gets in on Thursday. And while we may have paid too much, we can afford it and we have not had to carry a thing or negotiate for a taxi, struggle in traffic or wait for transportation. You get what you pay for. There are a lot of people here waiting for the train, but we have our tickets and seat allocation so here we go. We have seen the most amazing snow capped peak in the distance and I’m too excited for words about seeing it closer. As for Machu Picchu, it really is hard to believe that we are going there …

Later.

Here we are, in the village before Machu Picchu (Aguas Caliente). The train ride was very spectacular, along the river, down from Cuzco at 3400m to here at 2430m (Machu Picchu). We had seats on the side of the river, so we could see it as well as the amazing mountains, some of them snow covered. The trip took three hours, with a small snack served. Of course nothing is ever simple and I had to queue to get my return ticket printed because I had double sided the tickets when I print them! Doh! Then we couldn’t work out where the hotel was but a kind young man from one of the eateries walked us here. Needless to say, we went back there for lunch. At check in we asked about our Machu Picchu tickets which, it turns out, required printing. Then we were told how to purchase the bus tix for the 8km ride. With all that complete we were in our room and after a very short rest, back out the door for lunch.

Like last night, we ate traditional food. Last night I had Aji De Gallina (chilli of hen) and a guinea pig was also consumed (the little bit I had tasted a bit like pork ). Today I had stuffed potatoes. They were like a croquet with a meat and veg filling. Yummy but probably not good for me. And a beer. We were entertained over lunch by Riccardo the monkey, the beautiful people and their traditional clothes, and the amazing fitness of men pushing barrows of sand bags up the hill. The town is built on the hillside with a very steep gradient. The town is completely cut off from all roads and enclosed by massive stone mountains, rivers and forest. Yet it’s busy with people and traders.

After lunch we took a walk to find a sim card and instead found the Peruvian army. Apparently there are three active elements of the army, this one in service fighting drug lords in the jungles. They scared me. Seriously scared me! One look at their faces and the weapons they were carrying was sufficient for me to quake. We also found a group of people dancing in traditional dress. Finally we got the required sim card, which took a bit of doing to activate. So I gave the lady a koala for helping, which quickly got adopted by her daughter. She was talking to it, wagging her finger at it and wrapped it in a little tissue blanket. Very very cute. That’s 2 down with a few to go … I gave one to the guy who helped us find the hotel. One is also reserved for Royer, here at the hotel, who asked if we eat kangaroo and koala (to which I answered yes to kangaroo, but no too koala), with another reserved for Raoul.

This afternoon we found a plaza to sit in and drink lemonade and bought our bus tix for tomorrow. The plan is to relax now, get some snacks for tomorrow, have dinner (I won’t need much) and get another good night’s sleep. We will be up early to be queuing by 06.00 for the bus to Machu Picchu. I have no idea what to expect so I’ll just go and see. We met David today who tried to explain the spiritual nature of the place. I hope I connect with it in that way …

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