We took at taxi to the town of Poroy, and boarded the 0745 Peru rail train to Agua Calientes ($68). Agua Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo) is the town at the foot of the mountain below Machu Picchu. There is no road to the town because of the extreme terrain, so there are only two options to getting to Machu Picchu, hike the Inca Trail for four days, or take the train. We would have loved to hike, but the trail is closed in Feb. for maintenance, and we just did not have the time off of work for another week of travel.
The train ride is about 3 ½ hours through the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. The Sacred Valley that runs from Cuzco to Machu Picchu is about 70 miles, and is filled with the greenest fertile lands filled with farms. The Andes Mountains were much more sheer than I had expected, and the skylights on the roof of the train really enabled us to have a full panoramic view. I can't imagine there being a more scenic train ride anywhere on earth.
We arrived in Agua Calientes at 1130 and I found a hotel
in record time, 30 mins! We stumbled into the Hostal El Mistico ($37), and were given a gorgeous room with a balcony right over the raging river that runs right through the center of town, The owner Sara Suma is a new age artist, whose hippy artistic flair is felt throughout the hotel. He would be perfectly at home in Sedona, AZ.
The town is situated in a valley surrounded by sheer mountain cliffs, an absolutely beautiful location. The town itself lacks any local charm as it is comprised solely of souvenir stands, restaurants and hotels, however everything is locally owned, and there is none of the international chains there yet that you can find in Cuzco, and other major tourist destinations throughout the world.
We took a rainy walk down the train tracks for a few miles to find a hike which ended up being closed for repairs. We picked up a walking companion in town who walked in between us the entire time, as if she had been our dog for years. Dennis even scooped her up when the train drove by, and she fell limp in his arms, grateful for the protection. If we could
have driven home from Peru were surely would have had a new member of the family as our stowaway passenger.
We ate lunch at Govindas, a Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant which bears the same name of our favorite restaurant in Tucson. This option was a welcome change to the scores or restaurants serving up roasted guinea pig and alpaca steaks.
Tomorrow Machu Picchu awaits!
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