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Published: September 30th 2018
Pachacuti / PachacutecAguas Calientes
He transformed his kingdom into an empire.
, from the Spanish for ‘hot water, is formally known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. Wedged in a deep gorge, it is accessible only by train or foot. We came by train - panoramic PeruRail Expedition class train to be exact. The multi-car locomotive decked out in tasteful local motifs featured large windows on both sides and on the roof and as it meandered through fields of corn and wheat and alongside the rushing river the views on the Andes - around and above - were never lost.
In some ways, Aguas Calientes (let’s call it AC) reminded us of a certain hill station we passed through in India - high altitude, forested, misty and cool. For the most part though, AC was way more developed. Exiting the train station, we emerge to views of bridges arching over a deep crevice, towering green mountains, a clutter of boxy, haphazard buildings and legions of tourists. Arriving without a hotel reservation, Vibert struck out down a steep hill to find accommodation but, everything was booked. Or so they said. By the time he labored to climb back up the hill, Shanna with kids in tow and a porter for the bags, was
making her way downhill. By some stroke of genius, she had managed to arrange the last two available rooms at a hotel that had ‘no rooms’ when Vibert had asked. She said it had something to do with the hotel expecting another group that didn’t show up (or didn’t show up yet). We hope they found accommodations but we were happy to settle in.
Cute. Clustered. Idyllic. Chaotic. Serene. Too touristy. Decidedly local. Decidedly metropolitan. AC was everything. Tiny local restaurants feature sidewalk cafes looking out on tourist bazaars; people lining up at the single ATM machine while kids run down the train track that bisected the town - that is, of course, unless a reverberating horn announced the arrival of a train into a space so tight that restaurant patrons could easily share a cup of coca tea with the conductor. A grand statue of Pachacuti adorned a main square ringed by well-kept eateries, bars and government buildings. We went into the Ministry of Tourism to buy the required entry passes to nearby tourist sites. The computers were down, they said. Return in the morning, they said. It was about noon and that was as good a reason
as any to have another Alpaca a la Plancha. With nothing much else to do we wandered along the river and through the small town, relaxed and soaked up the clean mountain air and good vibes.
The next morning, about 11 am, the boys left the hotel and went in search of Shanna. She had left two hours prior to grab the tourist-site tickets. She was found almost at the front of a ridiculously long line that disappeared up and over an incline in the road outside the Tourism Office. We couldn’t help thinking ‘so this is what 5000 persons in a line’ look like. Tickets in hand and $50 per person lighter, we joined an equally long bus line.
An hour later, we boarded. The air of expectation and excitement was palpable as the bus wound it way upwards on a narrow mud road and into the clouds. For in as much as we enjoyed our short time here, Aguas Calientes was just a mere gateway. Every kilometer that fell behind and below us brought us a kilometer closer to the ultimate goal of our visit to Peru - to lay our very eyes on the mystical,
magical, world famous Ancient City of the Incas a.k.a. the City in the Clouds and a Wonder of the World - Machu Picchu
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