A really bad night last night. We had a power cut in Cusco and most of the night I spent intimately acquainting myself with the bathroom. I thought we would beat Montezuma’s Revenge but it was not to be, at least it was only me and not the kids. You can imagine what a picture of health I was when we arrived at the train station on the 16th to get the 7.00am backpackers train to Aguas Calientes. The journey is 4 hours, it felt like half of it was taken up just getting out of Cusco. As the train rises over the city it goes backwards and forwards to manage the steep grade and narrow rails – slowly. We passed the outskirts of the city – houses barely finished, paths of mud, children rummaging for rubbish alongside the tracks and lots of dogs. People with hopeless stares catch your eye and the whole segment of that journey was very uncomfortable.
The train was packed and in our carriage were the American couple from the Colca Canyon trip – you just keep on bumping into people! The scenery changed from cityscape to countryside and as we approached Aquas Calientes became mountainous and more like a jungle – very green. The train cuts through a valley with the mountains raising high either side. The town is actually lower than Cusco but as the clouds are quite low it still feels high. Aquas Calientes is a town on a steep incline built very quickly solely for tourism. A fast paced river runs through the middle and most of the streets are pedestrianised – it’s ugly. Our hotel was of course at the top of the hill so by the time we got there I just wanted to sleep.
We ventured out in the evening and found a nice restaurant with a darts board and sofas. The kids amused themselves and were joined by a 6 year old German girl (who had fantastic English) and who beat them hands down even though it was her first time! I chatted to her mother who was checking out Cusco for a place to live but after having been there a while was not at all impressed.
Our guide was supposed to show up at the hotel between 7 and 8. He showed up at 10.30 which was not ideal as we had to get up at 4.45am the next morning. I was so excited about the trip up to Machu Picchu tomorrow that I though I would never get to sleep but luckily my body was exhausted and we all went out like a light.
It had been raining the past few days (we had met our Japanese friend walking up the street who had arrived a few days earlier) so I was relieved to see the sun was shining and a blue sky as we walked down to get the bus. I give full credit to the kids as they got up without complaining (so I might have not told them the correct time…………….). There was already a queue for the bus but everyone looked as excited as I felt. The journey takes about 20 minutes up a very windy loopy path but what a view! We mulled around the entrance while we waited for the whole group to assemble and it was a mixture of lazy people like us who took the bus and Inca Trailers who had made it up that morning. A few had also just walked up from Aquas Calientes and their bodies were literally steaming by the time they joined us. It was a follow the umbrella tour round the site but as we were early it was relatively deserted. How on earth do I describe the first time you see the site? It appears below you as you clear the short steep walk up (huffing all the way) – amazing. We were also lucky in that the mist kept seeping across for half an hour so one minute you could not see a thing and the site was covered and the next it would appear as if someone had just taken off a cloak. It really is a spiritual place and even O who gets very bored of ruins was impressed. The llamas grazing on the site just add to the whole “out of this world” feeling about the place.
My energy or lack of it did not allow me to climb the mountain Huanaya Picchu as I was shattered but we had a good wander around the site after the guided tour to take in the atmosphere. You can’t really put on paper what it feels like to be there so I won’t try, just if you ever get the chance to go there – do. It really lives up to the hype.
The train back was at 5 and again full of tourists and many who had completed the Inca Trail. It was good to hear all the stories about the trek and the camping and I am also glad that I did not do it – it sounded hard and not as fantastic as all the stories say……………..Everyone was tired so it was good to get back to the hotel in Cusco and a nice warm bed. What a day and another item I can cross off my things to do before I reach old age list.