Thursday, April 7, 2016

Road to Machu Picchu: Final Leg

We bid farewell to Ollantaytambo aboard Peru Rail at 15:37 and were slated to arrive in Aguas Calientes at 20:23 - with enough daylight to absorb the views. The vistadome car had extra windows which made it easier for the riders to marvel at the Andes. In addition, I couldn't help but observe our fellow passengers. Most races were represented and I'd say it was a slightly older crowd. We shared a table with a Japanese tourist who didn't have much to say.

Travel companions seated aboard the Vistadome
Overall, it was a relaxing ride which was spent gazing at the mountains, streams and trails we passed by. The Andes were indeed beautiful. I couldn't help but think of how to scale some of these mountains - I had grown confident from the Ollantaytambo hike.

Views from the Vistadome
The mesmerizing train ride contrasted with Aguas Calientes.. A village built specifically to service Machu Picchu tourists, although it appeared to have actual inhabitants. I observed hotels, hostels, touristy restaurants, gift shops. No old administrative structures like Cusco. It wasn't my favorite spot but found it necessary to stop here. We wanted to spend most of our next morning's energy scaling Huayna Picchu. 

Top: Watching a parade pass by in Aguas Calientes
Bottom: View of a futbol pitch from hostel balcony.
Our dinner consisted of subpar fare geared for foreigners - only authentic items on the menu were Cusquenas.. Peru's bud light. We also noted a cultural difference - it took forever to get our bill and overall, service was slow. After dinner, we shopped for bottled waters at a corner store and people watched for a bit. Although uneventful compared to the rest of the days, we were still exhausted and slept early.. We had an experience of a lifetime in store for the next day.