Sunday September 1, 2013
Today we were able to add a new mode of transportation to our list of various different ways we get from here to there, by taking the train from Poroy, a small town just a few miles outside of Cusco, to Aguas Calientes. Getting up at the crack of dawn, we shleped with our overstuffed backpacks down to the Plaza de Armas to meet our taxi driver from yesterday who agreed to get us to Poroy for half the cost that was quoted from other cabs. When he never showed, (and we had a slight feeling he wouldn’t. He spoke no English and my Spanish is still muy terrible) we started hailing other taxis while still trying to get a price that we liked. That’s somewhat of a good thing here. There’s no meters, so you agree upon a price before you get in. If they quote higher than you want, you just tell them to move on while you wait for the next guy. We ended up going through three cabs before we could finally get a price that was agreeable, but still saved about $4 from what everyone else was trying to charge us. I know it’s not much, but I don’t like having to pay the ‘tourist’ price when I don’t have to.
Getting dropped off at the train station, we noticed right away that there was something different between us and all the other people waiting to board. No one had any piece of luggage larger than a small carry on that would fit on a plane, and here we were with these jumbo bags on our backs. After reading the small print on our tickets, it turns out that the train does not have a storage compartment like the buses do, and your luggage is supposed to be limited to 11 pounds or less. 1.) Ooops. Guess we should have read that earlier. and 2.) What the hell were we going to do now? There was no way we’d have time to go back to Cusco, leave our bags at the hostel, and get back before the train departed. So we did what we do best. Played stupid. We acted like we had no idea there were rules against the size of bags on our backs, and no one said anything. As soon as we stepped on the train we stashed them on a small shelf at the entrance and ignored the dirty looks from others as we took our seats.
In his own odd way, I think Matt was kind of happy to be breaking the luggage rule as he could find one little way to ‘stick it to the man’, or PeruRail, since the cost of their tickets are pretty frickin steep, and they’re the only way in and out of Aguas Calientes unless you want to walk. Not only that, but they even sat us apart even though we ordered our tickets together. I just sat back, next to the perfect stranger they put me next to, and enjoyed the views out the window. There were some amazing sights along the way, and it even worked out that my new neighbor spent about 30 minutes in the bathroom, so I was able to drool all over the window as we passed by snow capped mountains and a rushing river.
Off the train it was once again time to search for a hostel. My normally handy searches on Travellerspoint had given me no indication that there was anything available here in the way of hostels, and we thought we might be shelling out $70 or more for the cheapest hotel room we could find. For Matt, I think he would have paid it if it meant he didn’t have to walk around all afternoon with that backpack on his back. I swear that thing is over 60 pounds, and when we snatched it up from the streets of Vietnam a few years ago, was obvious the straps and supports were not made for someone his size. We just started walking into anything we could see from the street that had the word Hotel or Hostel on it, and wound up with a decently cheap private room at the second place we stopped. Our bags were put away, and we searched the streets for things to do.
Scrutinizing hairless Peruvian dogs was one of them. We had never come across them before, but there seems to be an overwhelming love for them in this town, because everywhere we went we saw them running around. I’m still not sure how I feel about them. If I think they’re incredibly disgusting, or if they’re so ugly they’re almost cute.
The other big draw of this town, are the hot springs. These sit just on the outskirts of down, but not more than a ten minute walk. They are natural thermal springs, from which the town derives it’s name. For the cost of about $3.50/person, you gain admission to the site where there are multiple pools of springs, ranging in temperature. We weren’t expecting a lot, but figured it would be a good way to waste a few hours as well as soak our muscles before our long hike up Huayna Picchu tomorrow. It’s a good thing that we weren’t expecting very much, as things springs were not all that nice. The water is a little murky, it smells like sulfur, and there’s the few occasional dead bugs floating by. Surprisingly, we didn’t mind any of that very much. It was an experience to go there, and that’s what we were getting.
For two and a half hours we sat and soaked in one of the warmer pools, sometimes changing it out for a cooler one and then going back. A few other travelers that had just done Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail were in there with us, and it was fun to hear the stories about their hikes. To say that we’re excited about going there tomorrow would be a total understatement. We have been looking forward to this since before we even booked our plane tickets to Peru. While in the tubs, since Aguas Calientes sits at the bottom of some very large mountains surrounding it, the sun dipped behind them at the incredibly early hour of 2:30. It cast some beautiful light onto the mountains surrounding us, and we decided to hit the showers in our hostel and explore town a little more before it got completely dark.
The rest of Aguas Calientes looks to be a very nice town that is also used to catering to tourist, with lots of restaurants, shops, and even a large soccer field with someone always out playing or practicing on it. I wish we would have had more time to spend here, but the train is taking us back to Cusco tomorrow just after we finish hiking Machu Picchu.
P.S. Can anyone tell me what that rainbow flag symbolizes? We keep seeing it everywhere in Peru!