Part IV- Aguas Calientes
*in this post, all photos can be clicked for a bigger photo
Wow, we were so excited to finally head on to Machu Picchu, the crowning glory of our journey. We didn’t even care that we had to wake up very early in the morning, to start our walk towards the mini van at 5:00am. You can say that we got used to this kind of travel, we were trained by now.
We sat ourselves with 4 more passengers, and left Cusco towards the city of Ollantaytambo, a 2 hour drive. We were thrilled to enjoy, once again, the beautiful scenery. Of course, some of us preferred to just sleep.
Once in Ollantaytambo (seemed like a nice town worth visiting next time), we boarded the train, Peru Rail, to Aguas Calientes, for a two hour ride. And what a ride that was. Big windows on the sides and above our heads allowed a direct view to the amazing scenery during the ride, as well as a glance into passing by houses and farms of the locals. A nice stewardess was passing with some snacks and hot drinks. Coca tea was our choice. It was a fun ride.
Arriving at Aguas Calientes (meaning “hot waters”). The small town can only be approached by train or foot, and is the access point to the yearned Machu Picchu (unless one takes the Inca trail that lasts a few days). As this town serves tourists who come to Machu Picchu, there are lots of restaurants, touristic markets and stores, guest houses to cater different budgets, and… hot springs. Since we arrived early, and planned on hiking up to Machu Picchu the next morning (yap- early, to see the sun rise), we had a whole day to spend in town.
It was fun just walking around town. We found a french (!!) cafe’, a cute little bakery near our guest house for fresh tasty alfajores (on calle Chaska Tika), and stumbled upon a local school band that was practicing (short clip).
Lior: Getting up at 4am, I was expecting a bus to take us to the train station. Well, this bus turned out to be an old minivan, and we were squished in there for around two hours. It was all worth it for the long, scenic, and relaxing train ride, in which we got hot tea (or coffee) and snacks! Interestingly enough, there are two different trains that reach Aguas Calientes, but you are only allowed to ride one. That’s right, us tourists are not allowed to go on the cheaper train, reserved for Peruvians only.
Aguas Calientes is a really nice town, split in half by a river. On one side of the river, it is strictly tourist attractions, restaurants, shops, the market. The other side is where the people live, go to school, play soccer. The tourist half is expensive (more than Cusco), but they have nice things, good food. The less touristy half has less “nice” restaurants, and can be cheaper. Indeed, we found a bakery across from our hostel (we stayed in the non tourist half) that served absolutely delicious mini-alfajores! Be careful, we bought and ate way too many alfajores, and ended up with extra cookies, and no room in our stomachs (but lets face it, is there such a thing as too many alfajores?).