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Published: February 20th 2009
Inca and Pigeons
The main plaza is dreary but it has the best Internet cafe
I am typing this blog from the Internet Cafe overlooking the main plaza with the fast computers, not the posh one with good lattes and leather furniture and too slow computers. (see photo for view) Using the internet is much like checking into this tourist town. Buyer beware. The town was created solely to service the tourists going to Machu Picchu. By the sounds of construction outside at the moment, tourism must be booming.
Before leaving Canada I had booked a hotel here in the Machu Picchu town. I searched the hotel-bookers site for a clean room with reasonable rate. A couple of days before arriving, I sent an email to request for pickup at the train station and received a cheerful reassurance that my name would be on a sign held by taxi-driver. I took the expensive train, the Visadome 1, from Ollantaytambo and it was worth the extra charge. The splendor of the scenery combined with the great service on the Visadome increased the excitement of going to one of the wonders of the world.
When I got off the train and stepped into the fray of tourists meeting their pick-up people or surging forward through the crowded market
When you walk out of train station you are greeted by hotel staff looking for their clients, market people offering to sell you things, and then the market stalls.
that separates the train station gate from the rest of the town, I was surprised by my lack of name on a sign. Hmmmm, maybe the driver was late? I sat in the sunshine for a few minutes, then approached a lady holding a clipboard to see if my name might be on her list. No...she asked what was the name of my hotel, and I realized that I left the confirmation paper back with my luggage in Ollantaytambo. I needed an Internet cafe so that I could look up the hotel in my saved email. She gave me directions to the main square and I headed off, very glad that I packed only an overnight bag for this visit. If I had to haul my luggage over bridges, up and down streets and steps, the joy of almost being at Machu Picchu would wane.
On the way to the plaza I saw many hostels, and decided to inquire about a room. Hostel Joe was close to the train station and the man could speak enough English to show me a room for 30 soles (about $10). He said the room had yet to be made up, but I could
Great latte and leather funiture here, but slow internet connection. Nice view of plaza, but I moved to shop next door with fast computers.
leave my luggage and head up to M.P. and it would be ready when I came back. The room was basic, but had a private bath, so I paid for it and got my key and left my bag in storage. Then I got brunch, found bank machine, bought ticket to Machu Picchu, bought a hat (forgot to pack that), bought ticket for bus to M.P. and went up to see the ruins. They were spectacular. Time seemed to stop when I was there.
When I got back to town, I went to my room and when I opened the door there were several people in the room. I stepped back, and went down to the office to ask why were there so many clearners in the room. The other receptionist who could not speak English told me in sign language that the room was switched for another and she took me to the new room. Apparently I had walked into the room booked by other people. The new room was terrible, the smell of urine hit me when I walked inside. I said nothing, knowing that she couldn´t understand my complaints. It was early afternoon so I went to
View of town from hotel side. Train station is on this side, too
an Internet Cafe, looked up the original hotel, found it and booked in. I explained that no one had been there to pick me up and the lady apologized. She took me to the room, and it was very clean and comfortable. It cost $31 u.s, and compared with my room in Ollantaytambo (see past blog) it was not much, but compared with Hostel Joe it was fantastic. I could smell the soap on the plush towels.
Then I went back to Hostel Joe and got my overnight bag, and went to the office to get my money back. The girl with no English was at the desk. In sign language, I told her I was leaving and wanted my 30 soles. She did not look happy, and went to find friendly guy who did speak some English. He wanted the receipt that he gave me that morning. I didn´t have it on me (later found it in bag), and after five minutes of broken conversation I realized that I wasn´t getting my money back. Because I didn´t have to sleep in such a horrible place, I wasn´t too upset when I walked away empty handed. It was a ten
Spend the extra cash and stay in a clean hotel. You can hear rushing water from bedrooms.
dollar lesson about settling too quickly for a bed in a tourist town in Peru.
Today I am killing time in Aquas Calientes waiting for the Backpacker train to get me out of here. My ticket is for 1800. The guy at Peru Rail told me that the morning train was fully booked but I could come back to see if I can get on the 1:30 train. *crossing fingers*
If I was doing this part over again, I would not have stayed overnight. Ollantaytambo is only an hour away. I had taken the 7:45 train yesterday morning, and I had lots of time to get up and down Machu Picchu and have supper and be in bed by eight. I loved visiting the ruins, but was exhausted from the walk up to the guardhouse and dashing over to see the Inca bridge and exploring the ruins of the ancient town. It rained during the last hour up there, which added to the mood but soaked my shoes and clothes. I debated whether to get up at five and repeat my visit to MachuPicchu before the crowds arrived, but I was too tired and the weather is cloudy.
View from hotel 2nd story window. See market stalls? The market is this far from decent hotel.
I know I will return someday; yesterday´s visit was totally satisfying for now.
The hotel where I stayed was Hostal de Turistas Chaska, and if you are coming here I do recommend it, but do not expect or ask for a pick up from the train station. It is not necessary or possible. It is a very short walk from the station, along pedestrian walkways. When you arrive, walk through the crowded market and as soon as you can, turn right along the walkway beside the river. Do not take any bridge across the river. Walk past a few pizzerias and there is the hotel. It overlooks the river, and you can hear the rushing water from the bedroom windows. Breakfast is included.
Time seems long in this town. Yesterday, after visiting Machu Picchu, I wandered through the market and bought a few things. I didn´t intend to, but when I asked for the price of things and told how many soles, before I could walk away I was asked for my price. To end the attempted transaction I would suggest half of their price, and they agreed. This is low tourist season and they must be eager
This bank machine is not labeled for international bank cards but it works and gives only soles. You can only pay soles for ticket to Machu Picchu.
to make a sale. And so I have a nice tablecloth and scarf and pencilcase. I can´t carry them around for two months so I will post them home from Cusco.
Most of the jewelry and cloth crafts must be massed produced in a factory because the goods are identical on every stall table, in every market and tourist shop in every town that I have visited. I hope the factory is in Peru. The table cloth is cheerful and it will remind me of my visit to Machu Picchu, so if it is made in China, that is o.k.
This morning I got up early and wandered around town trying to take cheerful pictures. It was challenging in my part of town. When I got to the posh part, the tiny street where the M.P. buses pass, there was a small park with nice flowers. I could take artsy pictures of the Urubamba river. The water rushes by so powerfully that it drowns out the sounds of construction in the town.
Rain has started to pour down. I made a good decision opting out of a second visit to Machu Picchu. As soon as it eases,
Train Not for Tourists
Peruvian police make sure no tourists get on the regular trains, that cost the regular cheap price.
I´m collecting my bag and trying to get that early train to Ollantaytambo.
Still pouring.....hmmmm, what more to say...... The food in restaurants is o.k. but overpriced compared with other towns. The best thing about the meal is the fruit juice. I think they are freshly squeezed and I´ve had papya, orange, mellow, and all were really tasty.
A FEW HOURS LATER
Yeah, the Aquas Calientes trap continues.....I collected my bags and went to PeruRail office to see if there was a seat on the early train. The same man was at the counter. Yes, there was room on the 1:30 train. Yahoo!! I said. For $22 u.s. I could get on the Visadome. He knew I had a Backpacker ticket, the cheaper version, which runs infrequently compared with the Visadomes. Was it my imagination or was he smirking while trying to charge me money to leave this town? No thanks, I´ll use half of that amount and get a delicious fried trout in asparagus sauce, fries and rice, and stick around writing postcards and getting back online. My train leaves at six and I have a window seat booked. That remnds me, a good place to eat is O´ray
I did not look for hot springs. Chris and Isabelle, this is where you ate?
Inti restaurant just before the Hostal de Turistas Chaska. In the daytime, staff from PeruRail can be found eating here. The pasta dishes are hugh, the fried trout dish is really good; prices are good when compared to Canadian restaurants.
In between cloud bursts I sit beside the river and watch construction workers move bricks with wheelbarrels, and when it rains I sit on the edge of the market under the plastic roof. I am not sure how every stall owner makes money because there are so many stalls which have the same goods. But, the children are well dressed with expensive toys, and there are many t.v. sets under the stall table to help pass time.
POSTSCRIPT: My final meal at Aquas Calientes was disappointing, nachoes and guacamale. While eating, the staff changed and when I went to pay bill it was more than I expected. This time I asked for an explanation and was told there was a table charge. You cannot know how happy I was to board the train for Ollantaytambo! It was dark, and the Backpacker train took longer than the Visadome, so it seemed, but there were several people eager to chat about M.P.
Stepping away from train station everyone must go through this market. Turn left after crossing the bridge to get to main square to buy M.P. tickets.
and their travel experiences. When I arrived at Ollantaytambo, the sky was filled with brilliant stars.
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