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Thursday, July 18, 2013

People watching in Aguas Calientes and a strange train surprise

After climbing back down Wayna Picchu and taking another walk through Machu Picchu, Liz, Michael, and I (the only ones from our group who did the former) headed for the bus that would take us to Aguas Calientes.

There was literally a bus that ran every five minutes, swallowing up tourists like they were candy. After 20 minutes of winding roads down to the valley, we hopped off at Aguas Calientes.

Began as a camp for railway workers, Aguas Calientes has turned into a town whose sole purpose is to be a tourist trap. Prices are inflated and taxes are often tacked onto the advertised prices. If not for Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes would probably be a ghost town. 

We were meeting our group at Apu Salkantay, a restaurant situated a couple blocks from the train station. As we finagled our way through the streets of Aguas Calientes, we caught sight of Apu. We found our crew on the second floor, where the three of us were received with a round of applause for having made it back from Wayna Picchu.

After lunch (Aji de Gallina), we moved over to a table near the balcony, where we had an open view to people watch for a couple hours until our train would arrive (the ladies went to get their nails done). We saw a young boy on a pink Barbie scooter. Bravo! There was another guy who kept running up the street with a wheelbarrow of potatoes, returning back down for more. Garbage was brought out to the center of the street between the two railroad tracks to be sorted into organic versus non-organic. 

We left by 5:30, for a five minute walk to the train station. On board and in our assigned seats (Vistadome service - though it made no sense since it was dark outside), we were all glad that we would soon be back in the land of hot showers. About 15 minutes into the train ride, we were provided a sandwich and snack. Fifteen minutes after that was when things got weird. Shelly, one of the trekkers from our group, asked for the bathroom. One of the train attendants led her to one end of the train car where there was a "special" bathroom. When she got to the end of the car, a giant Peruvian version of Chucky, the crazy homicidal doll, popped out. Then the music started. As the masked man danced up and down the train, he pulled out nearby passengers to dance with him, as well as to model alpaca made clothing. Apparently we were being treated to a fashion show. The other two train attendants switched in and out of various sweaters and scarves, walking up and down the aisle strutting their stuff. Meanwhile, the crazy looking clown faced gentleman hovered over us to make sure we were paying attention.

When the excitement died down, it was another hour to Ollayataytambo, where we hopped on a bus for another two hours' drive to Cuzco (arriving at 10PM). After a quick cold shower (hot water was apparently not working) at Ecopackers, I managed to find an Italian restaurant for some fettuccine alfredo (better than McDonald's) and hot chocolate to end a long, long, long day (3AM - 12:30AM).

Next up, sandboarding down the dunes of Huacachina. 


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