Published: October 28th 2007October 28th 2007
The Hiram Bingham
train from Puno on Saturday was a complete contrast from the frenetic travel and spartan conditions in our minibuses. We were shown to our first class carriage which featured armchairs around tables and settled down to ten hours of being pampered with beverages and meals. We escaped the extremes of enforced entertainment and souvenirs and ventured a few times to the observation car at the rear of the train. Stopping at the highest point, there was, inevitably, a market although the altitude prevented Jen from being able to run between all the stalls. We spent most of our time talking with Nicola and Andrew from Somerset who seem to have lived in most places in England and to be spending a lot of their time travelling.
On arrival in Cusco, with a small locomotive travelling ahead to ensure that the line was clear, we transferred to the Casa Andina hotel and walked around the corner to the square to watch the beginnings of the fiesta. A bride and groom emerged from the cathedral at about 20:00 to be greeted by a “battle of the bands” and fireworks. The spectacle and sound of the fireworks, the competing
music, the taxis and the panicking pigeons fleeing the ancient buildings was a memorable experience!
An early night was necessary because of leaving on the train to Machu Picchu at 06:00 so we missed much of the fiesta although the party sounds from an adjoining room or building did mean that we transferred from the 2nd to the ground floor.
On Sunday we took our seats towards the front of the train and picked up folk at a couple of intermediate stations along the way. At first there seemed only to be us and a number of French who, by the noise they were making, we re-enacting the storming of the Bastille. If that wasn’t bad enough, the “Lennon & McCartney on pan pipes” muzak unfortunately featured "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and the French seemed to know all the words!
We arrived at Agua Calientes at 09:40 where we caught the tourist ’bus to Machu Picchu, dropping our bags off at the hotel before we entered the historic site. Our guide was Paul who, having established that the common language amongst his six charges was English, guided us skilfully through the ruins and the hordes of Hispanic and Japanese
tourists before leaving us to make our way back to the entrance and the luxurious Sanctuary Lodge hotel (of which more shortly).