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Published: April 15th 2018
River through Huancayo
My name is El Macho and I ride from Huancayo to Huancavelica. I am the only real passenger service left in Peru, as my brethren are now mainly tourist lines or freight lines. Not so long ago people used to make fun of me and there was a saying about me which went like this: ‘sale cuando quire y llege cuando puede’, which translates as, ‘it leaves when it wants, and arrives when it can’. This was because the tracks were not very good so my service was quite unreliable. But nowadays I mostly leave on time and arrive when I should.
Since I am not a tourist train my prices are very cheap. I have two classes, which are quite confusing to foreigners. The upper class is called buffet class, but despite the name it is doesn’t include a buffet. But it does have reserved and padded seats and there is a table. The lower class is called first class, and this is where most of the locals sit. Buffet class is around four and a half dollars, and it doesn’t matter if you go all the way to Huancavelica or get off after half an hour. The first
class tickets however vary depending on where you get off. If you go all the way to Huancavelica it is three dollars.
I am not a long train, I only have three carriages, one buffet and two first class. I stop everywhere, even at the smallest villages and dwellings. Sometimes all you see is a small hut. But people get on and off at all those places, and I don’t stop long at the smaller stations, maybe only half a minute or so. In total my ride takes between five and a half and six hours and I leave at 6.30 in the morning. You can’t buy my tickets in advance, so you need to come early and line up to buy a ticket the same morning.
If you are hungry you can buy food at the food stalls outside the train station in Huancayo, but don’t worry if you don’t, as they serve food onboard and the prices are very reasonable. You can get all kind of dishes and they smell delicious and look very good. You can also get coffee and other drinks and deserts. Believe me when I tell you that you will enjoy the
Having a fruit juice
ride and won’t go hungry.
I drive along the bottom of a deep valley next to a river, sometimes I cross it. The scenery is spectacular and varied. Sometimes you see waterfalls, other times picturesque villages, or steep rock walls, mountain peaks, and of course the wild rivers. Colourful locals hop on and off the train. The first part takes you down from the 3200 meters that Huancayo is situated at, to 2800 meters in a deep valley, but after that it is all up to 3700 meters at my end point of Huancavelica. I go through many tunnels along the way too and people are constantly working on the track to keep it in tip-top shape. I might not be the fastest train in the world, but I am one of the nicest. I often blow my horn out of sheer pleasure!
Buffet class is often not full so you can alternately sit on one side of the train if the views are better on that side, or on the other if I cross a bridge and the scenery is more enticing on the opposite side. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I leave from Huancayo to Huancavelica,
Waiting at the train station
returning on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In the rainy season my tracks might become blocked by landslides, so it is best to avoid the wet season.
And at the end of the line you can get off in Huancavelica which has many beautiful churches with silver plated alters and intricate carvings. It was once very rich, because of the silver mines, but now it is the poorest town of Peru in the poorest region. Still you probably won’t notice this, as the countryside looks fertile with many colourful little farms and fields of potato, quinoa, maize, and wheat. And the women wear beautiful dresses and hats.
I hope I can remain a passenger service for a long time, and won’t end up like the rest and become a mere tourist train, chucking along for nobody but a bunch of rich, camera totting gringos. I don’t mind a few, but really my greatest pleasure is in providing this service to my own peeps, the men and women that live and breathe in the valleys that I cross.
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