Hoorah, today we head to Machu Picchu.
The alarm jarred us awake at 4:45am – I thought this was a vacation…………too many early mornings!! We had a nice breakfast of eggs, freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade buns. We checked out and our taxi was on time at 6:00 am.
Winding through the very narrow streets we arrived at the train/bus station within 5 minutes – early for our 6:20 check-in. No problem, we were greeted by a Peru Rail staff who pointed to the check-in line to board the bus. I thought that we would wait here until our embarkation. To my surprise and delight, our tickets were checked, we were given a bottle of water each and we boarded the bus immediately. Although we were 40 minutes early according to the departure time on our tickets, as soon as the bus was full, we departed. Very impressive!
This is the summer rainy season so in order to eliminate delays and problems with the rail line we take a bus from Cusco Wanchaq station to the temporary Pachar Station in the Sacred Valley approximately 1.5 hours away. The bus ride was delightful, and Mother Nature was smiling on us as there was no rain throughout the entire journey.
We travelled through the crowded streets of Cusco (even at this early hour!) up hills and down hills and higher and higher to almost 3600m at one point. Eventually we descended into the valley with incredible views of farmland, including crops of corn & potatoes, and enormous mountains in every direction. Because it is the rainy season, everything is a beautiful emerald green, and every turn in the road is breathtaking!
In what seemed an instant we are travelling through the Province of Urubamba and the town of the same name which are part of the Sacred Valley. This is where quinoa is grown in addition to other grains, coca, corn, potatoes, peaches etc. The valley is a very important agricultural area for Peru, now and all the way back to Inca times. The soil is rich in nutrients and the weather perfect for growing.
We are early for our train in Pachar so we chill and do some people watching. It is summer vacation in South America and we are amazed that we are an extreme minority as almost everyone in the crowd speaks either Spanish or Portuguese! For me it is a dream as I am immersed in the Spanish language.
At 8:05am promptly we boarded our Peru Rail Expedition train. To our surprise our ‘economy’ train was quite luxurious and was fitted with windows in the dome of the car allowing us to see 180 degrees! We shared a table with two ladies from Siberia, Russia and all four of us were even more pleasantly surprised when the train attendants served us our choice of coffee or tea and a snack. Wow, this is the way to travel!
The next two hours were spent photographing and gazing at the incredible views while winding through the majestic Andes. Again, every turn provided us with one of those ‘wow, look there’ moments.
Safely off the train in Aguas Calientes we were greeted by Christophe, owner of the Panorama B&B which will be our home for the next two nights. A short two or three blocks and we arrive at the B&B. It is a nice small place, very clean and with a European flair to it (Christophe is from France). Advice to all – make sure to book a twin room which is larger and comes with a balcony – worth the extra few dollars. Fero’s favourite part of the room is the Samsung flat screen TV, and my favourite is the Urubamba river rushing by our window.
Fero has a rest (he didn’t sleep well last night due to the altitude we were at 3400m) and I wandered a wee bit and stopped at Fortaleza Pizza for a bite to eat. Very mediocre however filled the gap. Around 2:30pm I went back to the room and too fell asleep until about 4pm or so – just as well as the torrential rains set in once again.
Rested we meandered through the small village and market stalls filled with tourist trappings of one shape or another and checked several of the 150 restaurants deciding on which one to choose for dinner. We decided on the Indio Feliz a French / Peruvian restaurant that Christophe had recommended. Considering it is one of the top restaurants in Aguas Calientes the decor had more of a pub atmosphere and the service was very poor. The food, however, was very tasty and filling.
Following dinner we headed back to the room and as we decided to take one of the first buses up to the Inca Ruins of Machu Picchu, we went to sleep around 8:30 pm. I imagine it will be a great night sleep with the only noise being the rushing water of the river.