Jan 18th 2011
Is it worth the cost?
Yesterday I sat with the hostel travel desk to figure out my options to go to Machu Picchu. It was way more expensive than I expected but from all I heard it was well worth the trip. Sorting tickets and transport out alone would cost around $200, to do it through the travel desk with transport to and from train station was $225, I took the less stressful route with the travel desk.
Transport to Aguas Calientes (Place of Hot Water)
My pickup from the hostel was at 7am and it turned out I was the only person in the mini bus. My driver spoke no English but I was able to communicate that I was vet nurse and was interested in animals. He then started to name any and all animals that wqe saw along the route and teach me the Spanish words. We also listened to some excellent 80’s techno music and fairly soon we reached the train station in Ollantaytambo.
Peru Rail was my transport to Aguas Calientes and I was in the Expedition car, aka Backpacker or bottom class. Turns out my seat mates were a couple from Brazil and a girl from Chile, none of which spoke a lick of English. But we still managed to communicate a little and the girl from Chile gave me a dried fig (which looked a little disgusting, but tasted rather good). We were all very excited when it was announced that a snack was included (pretzel sticks and 2 small chocolates) and we entertained ourselves trying to find the best pictures to take along the route.
Finally arriving at my destination after a beautiful train ride, I was met by a hostel representative. We walked through the mandatory tourist trap by the station with hundreds of souvenirs to choose from. Across a fairly rickety bridge that crossed over a raging river and around the corner to the hostel. At check in another girl had just arrived and we both looked at each other and both said “solo? Excellent! See you in 5 minutes”. And the rest is history, we had an instant connection and an immediate bond. It also helped that she is almost fluent in Spanish.
New Friend and Hot Springs
Cathleen was from Germany, 23yrs old and teaching German in Chile. We went and got her bus ticket and entry ticket to Machu Picchu and then had hoped to go check out some amazing botanical gardens on the property of a very expensive hotel called Inka Terra. Unfortunately due to people stealing orchids in the past it was only open to guests (and unfortunately I am not prepared to give them my first born to stay there). So sitting on a bench we opened the ever useful Lonely Planet and discovered the location of the towns namesake, the hot springs!
The hostel was kind enough to loan me a towel and we headed off in the wrong direction. Righting our mistake fairly quickly we turned around and found the entrance just a hop, skip and a jump from the hostel. 10 soles ($3.20 US) we walked up and up and up until we got to the entrance, got changed and headed into the first pool littered with foreigners from around the world. The water was amazingly hot, the floor was gravel and if you waved your hand a guy would come running to take your drink order. After about 2hrs later (much pruned by then) Cathleen and I, along with 2 other girls decided to do a 60sec dip in the cold pool. Cold was certainly the descriptive word and there was much giggling and whooping from all of us, well 3 of us at any rate. The 4th was an American lady, about 38yrs, who had just completed the Inca Trail. She had the look and cool reserve of a seasoned traveler and someone who would most like fit into any location around the world. She also, unfortunately, had the type of cool indifference that bordered on arrogance, she just looked down her nose at the 3 of us while she counted down the seconds.
She left with a bunch of others shortly afterwards and went to catch the train back to Cusco, leaving 2 portuguese and a german lad in the pool with us. Miguel, one of the portuguese, was having a grand time chatting us up, “us” being used loosely (I was getting the occasional question to make it appear he wasn’t completely hitting on Cathleen. In the end, and after 3 beers each, with only 30 minutes till their train they finally left hte pool, but not before Miguel got Cathleen’s info (completely ignoring me at that point) using the pic we had taken as an excuse. Go figure!
Hawaiian Pizza in the middle of Peru
As wonderful as the hot springs were, you definately felt the need to have a shower afterwards and the fabulous staff at the Pirwa Hostel gave me another towel free of charge. Then we headed out to get pizza, both of us joined at the hip by this point. I had a craving for roast chicken and after a thorough search we opted on a place with great variety and ordered an Hawaiian pizza to share. They bake it in a pizza oven right in front of you and was one of hte best pizzas I have ever tasted. Cathleen got a beer and I ordered a fanta, which arrived very warm and the waiter was confused when asked for a cold one. As they had none in stock I requested ice, this resulted in the need to run to another place to get me a glass full of ice (I was promised it was made from bottled not tap water).
A great day by any standard. Cathleen planned to wake up at 4am and walk up to Machu Picchu while I opted for the 25min bus ride and a tour that was included with my ticket. My roommates turned out to be two German girls who planned to wake up at 3am to walk up…oh goody!
Tomorrow I am amazed at the Machu Picchu and the sheer insanity of its location.