Friday, August 1, 2014 (morning)
The day started early. Carla and the driver met us at our hotel at 5:30 AM to get us to the train station in Peroy. We would be taking the Vistadome to Aguas Calientes (Hot Springs) and then a short bus ride to Machu Picchu. This would get us back on our itinerary. We enjoyed our stay at Sonesta Cusco (but not the endoscopy!). The hotel was not a part of our original itinerary, but it served us well.
It was a 30 minute drive to the train station in Peroy through dark and empty streets. Carla commented on my short sleeves and asked me if I were cold. I don’t get cold much these days (Carla will understand when she’s 48), though the morning was very chilly. My light jacket was enough for me, but Genene wore fleece and Greg had on his down jacket. It will be warmer in Machu Picchu, and the altitude will be lower, which should provide Greg with even more relief.
The train station was bright and clean. They were selling coffee, hot drinks and snacks in the corner. I went to get Genene a hot cocoa and me a coffee (Greg is now forbidden to have coffee.) My order cost 14 soles, and I had a 20, and the lady could not make change. She kept saying, “One minute, please,” and she even sent her helper to get change. The helper came back empty handed. Keep in mind that this is a train station that serves mostly tourists going to Machu Picchu. Every single person on the line behind me pulled out a 20 or 50 sole bill, probably because they had all just gone to change their money like we had and were only carrying bigger bills. The woman could not make any change for anyone. How do you start your day without a proper change drawer?! As the train came into the station, Carla came to the rescue. She had enough change in her pocket so that the woman could give me back a 10 sole bill. I could have just left it, but it was the principle of the thing. Now I owe Carla 2 soles.
Carla stood in the line for us and told us when to board. She has also arranged for a local guide to meet us at Machu Picchu. Carlos would have been our Machu Picchu guide, but it did not make sense to transport him when there are plenty of good guides on the mountain. Carla saw us off and told us, “You are going to have a wonderful day!”
The Vistadome train is lovely. There are large picture windows throughout the car sides and on the ceiling, giving a 360 degree view of the stunning countryside. The train left the station on time at 6:45 AM for a 3 and 1/2 hour ride. They gave Genene a warm blanket, and she was soon fast asleep.
Greg and I sat quietly enjoying the scenery.
Greg loved seeing all the dogs outside the train window. They followed their owners around in the fields and towns, doing their dog jobs.
The train is probably like a poor man’s Orient Express. I’m only guessing, because I have never traveled on the Orient Express. There’s something else for me to do. There were neatly uniformed attendants. Before breakfast, they made a ceremony of putting down placemats, a small bowl of flowers, precisely placed silverware. They served a good breakfast of quinoa pancakes with marmalade jam, spinach brochette, fresh strawberries and banana with hot tea and coffee (none for Greg). It was very refreshing.
We enjoyed seeing how people live and work in the Sacred Valley. I spent a lot of time snapping pictures of them through the train window. I love their colorful clothes.
There were periodic announcements on the train. They pointed out Mount Veronica, a mountain climbed in 1956 by a team of Swiss and French. Those guys love to climb. They pointed out Mile 82 of the Inca Trail, the place we would have started our hike. I was content to rock gently along and let it pass.
Mile 82 of the Inca Trail:
Genene loved how abruptly green everything became as we got close to Aguas Calientes.
We got to Aguas Calientes on time and made our way through the bazaar and to the bus stop.
It smelled of incense and earth.
The bus unloaded right at the doorway of our hotel, Sanctuary Lodge. We arrived before lunch. Check in was at 1:00, so they showed us to a day room so we could wash up.
What a stunning view we had from the day room:
We were soon joined by a couple from New Jersey and two ladies from Singapore. One of the ladies had just climbed Wayna Picchu (the citadel mountain beside Machu Picchu) in 29 minutes (so she said). She told us that she does “only 30 minutes of exercise a day.” She was as skinny as a puma, and I didn’t believe it for a second. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I believe her time up the mountain either.
Sanctuary Lodge has stunning vistas.
As soon as the clock struck noon, we departed the day room and ate lunch at the hotel. By the time we were finished, our room was ready. We would have a half-hour to wash up, gear up and meet our guide for a tour of Machu Picchu.