South America: Peru – The road to Machu Picchu

The scenery on the drive
was beautiful!

It’s been a long day, but we made it to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo). This pueblo is the nearest place you can find to the ruins of Machu Picchu and this is where there are buses, guides, and plenty of tourists. I can’t say we’ve been overwhelmed with customer service on our trip so far.

It’s a madcap, mad driver world

The morning shuttle arrived late, and the woman in charge was yelling at us in Spanish. Like it was our fault they were late. We threw our bags in and the van driver, a young man who never said a word to anyone, tore through the streets of Cuzco, picking up passengers.

Before leaving Cuzco he threw our bags on top of the van and I crossed my fingers it wouldn’t rain. Well, low and behold, halfway through the drive to Ollantaytambo, it started to pour. A couple miles later the driver pulled over and threw a tarp over the luggage. Hmmmm, he couldn’t have done that sooner?

There are ruins in the mountains on both sides
of Ollant, I can’t wait to come back and see.

Anyway, we make it to Ollant (Ollataytambo for long, although I really love saying the whole name), and he stops in the middle of town and in Spanish explains that he can’t get any closer to the train station, we’ll have to find it on our own. Then quickly disappears once all our bags are handed down.

I should mention: For those people who bought the standard tour, the time between now and when the train leaves is how long you have in Ollant, which is only about a half hour.  In this case, the shuttle was late and we had just enough time to find the train and get in line at the station door.  luckily we’ll be coming back to stay in Ollant, but many people will only see the train station.  A shame because this place is beautiful.

FYI: As we walked up to the train station, taxi after taxi and shuttle after shuttle passed us as they went to drop people off in front of the station. In other words, our driver wasn’t telling us the truth when he kicked us out early.

Picture out the window of the train.

The Train Ride to Aguas Calientes

The station attendant checked our tickets and wouldn’t let us enter the station until our train was available. 

Once on board, I could see why different websites say not to worry about paying more for the window topped trains.  I definitely couldn’t see much more than with regular windows.  We had a sparse cabin and there was room behind our seats for our pile of backpacks.  It was still comfortable and the view from the side windows was spectacular.

The rivers are running together in a torrent!
To see the video: 

I was surprised when we were handed a little-boxed snack for the ride. It was very nice of them, they shouldn’t have. The tiniest sandwich ever (fit inside the palm of my hand), some dry cookies covered in chocolate, a little bread and I had some coffee. Yep, they really shouldn’t have. It’s a good thing Rebecca and I pack food with us!

In Aguas Calientes

We arrived at the station and walked up to a woman holding a plaque with our names. She quietly led us

Beautiful view of the mountains from here.

through the streets of the town to the hostel (no sign outside for the hostel) and handed us a key to our room.

At first, I was impressed. Two beds, a table, private bath. But then I realized the walls were paper thin and we were right off of the lobby. Not to mention that we had a thin window that looked into the lobby. Plus, there was no hot water. Deep breath! This hostel was part of our package deal and it’s only for one night, tomorrow we have to find somewhere else to stay.

Then, we met with Peter, our guide who will lead us through Machu Picchu. Finally, a ray of light. He was great and gave us all the details we needed. As per his guidance, we ran out to buy our tickets for Huayna Picchu (A limited number of people are allowed up).

Dinner in Aguas Calientes

Inka Terra is to the left side of the tracks, their public
restaurant is to the right – those moss covered

I’m in the mood for a good meal, so we checked out our Peru guidebook and went searching for a restaurant that’s down by the train tracks. Turns out they weren’t open yet, but they walked us over to their other restaurant, attached to the nicest hotel in town.

Inka Terra, how we love you. When the waiter placed our napkins in our laps for us we knew it was going to be expensive, but they had us the second they brought the bread basket with flaky croissants. Is it normal to get giddy over bread? We haven’t had any good bread since Panama, and even that wasn’t anything like a croissant. I’m afraid to say we asked for that bread basket to be brought around a couple of times.

We came back to our room at the hostel and through our thin window to the lobby, we can hear Peter talking to a bunch of single guys from Germany. They are dying to find a club and women. I don’t think it’s sunk in for them yet that Aguas Calientes isn’t a party town.

We have to be up early tomorrow to get to Machu Picchu for sunrise, so we are early to bed.

Want to see more:
Day 28 Cuzco, Peru
Day 30 Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu, Peru

Hello. I’m Sonja Dewing. I am a Writing Professional: Technical, business, travel, as well as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers. I’m also a published author, Toy of the Godsand I’m always seeking adventure travel. I’m a Social Media Manager and consult with writers on creativity and social media.


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