Okay, it’s up early again, a quick breakfast at the buffet, and we were off in the van with a driver, Edward, and Hugo. Edward was willing to take the suitcase for us; whew! In through the town of Ollantaytambo, to a large parking lot. We were led to the train station, and just outside the outer gate, we were given our one-way train tickets to Machu Picchu. We were assured that our return tickets would be given to us by Ulbalina, who would meet us in Machu Picchu.
|Ollantaytambo train station|
|Looking out our "front" window|
|Urubamba River before it narrows|
|Passing through a town|
|Ruins in the valley|
The Inca Trail is 33 km/21 miles from the village of Chilca to Machu Picchu. To trek on the trail, you are required to have a permit and pay a trail fee. It takes four days for the entire trail, but there are shorter options. The trail has been considered a work of spiritual art like a cathedral of nature, and walking it is an act of devotion. There are three high mountain passes, including elevations of up to 4,198 m/13,772 feet. Most of the way is paved with original stonework that crosses a raised causeway, goes through a tunnel, and even clings to a side of a cliff, as well as has stairs. Rope suspension bridges cross un-fordable rivers. The Inca Trail paralleled the train tracks on the other side of the river, but at KM 88, it veered away from the river. A new bridge crossed the river near KM 88, where there is a checkpoint to enter the Inca Trail.
The train continued down the gorge, passing a hydroelectric power plant.
|Approaching Agua Calientes|
|Hutachay Hotel lobby|
|Indigenous hat display|
|Indigenous hat detail|
|Indigenous hat micro-detail|
Eventually, computer reservations proved we had rooms, but they would not be ready until 10:30 AM. So we asked Ulbalina about shops in Aguas Calientes, and got information about two tourist sites instead, the museum and baths. We walked across the street to the small park along the river, and headed farther downhill in the direction of the Machu Picchu museum which was to be at the foot of the path to the ruins. Jan checked along the river for birds.
|Following the river out of town|
|View back towards town|
|Encantador Sumaq Hotel fountain|
|Interesting stone-lined parking spots|
|Rock in the river with strange markings|
|Machu Picchu bus garage|
Our Japanese cousins had put clothes out to dry on some benches.
|Inorganic and organic trash cans|
The Hatuchay Tower Hotel had an elevator, which was good since our room was on the fifth floor.
|Looking down from the fifth floor|
|Our hotel room|
|View out our hotel window|
|Turning on the room electricity|
We walked up the street to Toto’s House Restaurant for lunch, and at first we were led inside while being told the buffet was 48 Soles. We thought the lunch was paid for, but did not have the voucher they requested. Jan looked through the reservations, but could not find her name, as we have usually been called the “Jan B. group”. I still had a business card for Ultimate Voyages, and the restaurant hostess called to find out that we were booked under “TerraInka Group of 4”.
|Toto's House Restaurant|
|Hiram Bingham train locomotive in town|
|The tail end of the Hiram Bingham train|
|View from restaurant|
Kirby showed us all the purchases he made in town, both from the market and from shops. Beautiful silver earrings in Nasca bird designs, and a Tumi pendant, a Tumi being a ceremonial knife with a semicircular blade. A traditional band came in to play music, and then to try to sell their music CD.
We were trying to figure a tip to leave, when the waiter came over and saw the 20 Soles bill and seemed to indicate that wasn’t enough! We then realized we had to pay for our bottles of water or Coca Cola. Only teas are included with the buffet. Coca Cola Classic and Coca Cola Zero are readily available in Peru. Coca Cola Light (their version of Diet Coca Cola) is more hit or miss.
Kirby had tried the ATM before lunch, but it was out of order. Then after lunch we saw a long line had formed to the ATM. Kirby got in line to get some Soles. Then we walked through the market, and uphill in the direction of the thermal baths.
There were workers and construction equipment in the Rio Aguas Calientes channel through town, and they were building up walls on either side of what was a mere trickle.
|Construction in the Rio Aguas Calientes|
|Rio Aguas Calientes|
We knew we were getting close, because the shops started offering towel and bathing suit rentals!
|Street to the thermal baths|
We crossed back over the river, as we knew the hotel was behind the train station.
|Behind the train station|
|Inkaterra Hotel restaurant|
|Inkaterra Hotel entrance|
|Inkaterra Hotel rooftops|
|Jan & Kirby|
Brynne and I had success at the market, finding a hat for Dylan, and some souvenir shot glasses for friends. We also took advantage of the shorter line at the ATM. We were back at the hotel in time for our 4:00 PM meeting with our Machu Picchu guide, and Jan and Kirby arrived soon afterward. Ulbalina brought Efrain, our Quechuan guide. He spoke briefly as to what would happen the next day, and asked when we wanted to leave in the morning. I opted for seeing the sunrise. One factor for the timing of our tour was when we would be leaving Machu Picchu, and Efrain asked what time our train was to depart. We did not know, and were told to just look at our tickets. But we did not have tickets! So Ulbalina said she would bring us train tickets at 7:00 PM that evening. And we decided to meet Efrain in the hotel lobby at 5:45 AM the next morning.
We returned to our rooms, where Brynne watched TV in English. I went to Jan and Kirby’s room to admire the view from their 3rd floor balcony overlooking the street, and the river and mountains across the street.
|View from Jan & Kirby's room|
Musicians came to entertain us,
|Musicians at dinner|
Next: Day 12 Machu Picchu.