Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Sunday, January 23, 2011

Aguascalientes day 1

Henning, Kathrin and Bee picked Raymie up at the small Cusco airport at 6:20am. It was a whirlwind-of-a-day for him.

Edwin from lucky tours drove us the 1.5 hour ride to Ollantaytambo telling us about the countryside. In the main square we had breakfast at La Ñusta. It was a tight squeeze at the table with our bags and all the food we ordered for first breakfast. It was nice to sit in the sun.

Bee bought a much needed warm hat for $4 but the coolest hat was too expensive at $50 with all the beads and balls.

We walked to the Ollantaytambo ruins but it was so expensive (charging $42 per person) to see and even $5 for dogs (not that we had any but strange). At least we took some pictures from below since we couldn't find a place to sneak in. We walked around the quaint little town and would definitely stay here over night if we had the chance.

Note: Be careful buying water. Always check the cap. We bought a water that once opened tasted like horrible unsanitary tap water. We approached another vendor about it and they said that this happens all the time and to not drink it because even the locals boil their water before drinking it.

On the way to the train station we did the smartest thing and bought ponchos (originally so it wouldn't rain).

People sure do love to cue and the train is no different - even though we have assigned seats. Since we're smart we sat at Cafe Perla next to the boarding area for the train and had coffee and Pisco sours for 30 minutes. We also bought grocery supplies since we were told everything would be expensive in Aguascalientes.

On the train they gave us snacks and coca tea. The ride wasn't super entertaining but it was interesting going through the different terrains, beautiful mountains and a crazy, wild river. They had $3 Cusqueña beers so that helped passed the time as it started to rain. Why not play flip cup like on Sunny in Philadelphia?

The train arrived and someone from the hostal was there to guide us through the artisan markets.

Agauscalientes is a strange setup of a town. There's really no rhyme or reason for the setup of the town. I think the city planners dip a little too deep into the ojas de coca. At least the hostal was right cross the bridge so that was a good start.

Hostal Sauyamarca was arranged thru the travel agency and it was very, very basic but it worked and it was clean. Don't try to stay there but it' not to be avoided either. Then came a big mission of trying to find the Packer game for the NFC Championship. It took a while and 3 people helping us before we finally found it at Hanaqpacha Inn playing in the lobby (we didn't stay here but the staff was so nice and the building seemed nice enough we would recommend giving it a try - also it was the only place in the whole city with access to the game on Direct TV). The staff was so helpful and friendly, even letting us eat in the lobby to watch the game. The four of us ordered 2 Trucha Tiraditos (spicy, trout ceviche) and both came out totally different. Maybe the chef was on break.  The tv worked for most of the time and that made it even more nail biting. Packers beat the Bears and are going to the Super Bowl! What a great day! We walked thru the artisan mercado and looked at cool shirts and hats but nothing was a must have (besides everything is cheaper away from this city). We still had 1 hour until we were supposed to meet with our guide for tomorrow so a quick stop at a Chinese restaurant sounded great. Wonton soup for 4 but no egg rolls only fried Wonton wraps. :-(

The guide was not at the hostel on time, what a surprise! So we got the info for Machu Picchu from a different lady who gave us bad advice on our times for departure as we found out.

Early to bed for a big day.

Machu Picchu day 2

Henning & Kathrin woke up at 4am to walk/run 2 hours in the rain up the hills to Machu Picchu. Raymie and Bee, being smart, took the bus to Machu Picchu and didn't make the first few buses even though we were in line at 5:15 am. The first bus leaves at 5:30am and the guide told us "no problem" being there at 5:20am to get on the first bus (stupid to get there so early and not get the extra ticket. Get in line at 4:30 or you might as well wait until 7 or 8am). After the 12 minute ride to the entrance, we waited in a very long line for tickets in the rain but didn't get tickets to Huanapicchu at the top of the mountain. Only the first 200 people got their tickets stamped and we were 20 people behind that.

Everyone was freezing wet and the Cafe did not open until 7am and the Sanctuary Lodge was not open till 11am.

So wet and cold but it was only 6:30am and we had a long day ahead of us. We just stood outside the entrance drinking bad coffee trying to keep warm until we met Grupo Pedro at 7:45am.

Off we went to discover an unknown lost city just like Hiram Bingham but we paid a lot more to see it than he did (1sol = $.33 now) Our2 hour guided tour was very informational learning  how 3 is the magic number for the Incas gods, animals and worship. It was an amazing experience even in the rain with llamas frolicking during our picnic of chocolate and pringels on the terraces. The entire lost civilization was quite awe inspiring and marvelous but we didn't gather the great sense of spirituality that many suggest (this is not a negative, just an observation). We didn't make it up to Huanapicchu so instead we headed toward the Sun Gate with a great view of the mountain tops, valleys and the river. At 2pm we met Henning and Kathrin after their 2 hour hike and by this time we were done with the mountain and the on-&off rain. Instead of walking back to Aguascalientes as originally planned, we opted for the $8 bus ride down to town. With no place to go we searched for a warm place to eat. Restaurant La Estacion was okay Mexican food with free chips and huacamole (no g) :-). They were showing weird Peruvian folkloric videos.

We decided we should make our own video with guy jumping off a cliff, riding a condor while playing a 3 foot pan flute. It's going to be awesome! They did have a19% service charge and that really sucked after we spent 2 hours there.

We were very happily and thankfully surprised when our hostel had our bags and return train tickets. Whew! Always taking chances.

With still 1.5 hours till the train left we found wi-fi at Coffee 24 - extremely expensive drinks at the main square.

Off to the train station thru the crazy markets with crazy drunk French men jumping and screaming around. Too bad they were on the train car behind us.

We had a bottle of champaign but we had challenges trying to put it into thin coffee to-go cups.

Well, we made it! Somewhat dry and somewhat warm and really, really tired. 2 hours till we change to the bus? Not so much luck. After 30 minutes on the train it stopped. Was there a couch on the track? A cow perhaps? No! It was a boulder that fell from the mountain top. Our good luck prevented that the boulder on the tracks didn't land on us! So what to do but play Blackjack and Pai Gow when you're stuck for over 3 hours.

Bee had a great idea and we didn't know why they didn't use a long stick and wet it so it would expand and  break the rock. That's what the Incas used to do (we learned that on out tour). Finally after the crew telling us "only 30 more minutes" about 10 times, we switched tracks even though there was another train stuck coming the opposite way. It was time to go because Raymie won at cards and took all our money.

We managed to sleep for about an hour when it was time to find our bus, Bus Pedro. By this time we were almost 4 hours late and there were people and buses everywhere. It was a cluster f¥#*. Our bus group was waiting for 40 people and had 2 buses (1 bus and 1minivan). The bus left and we were stuck waiting for some people for 45 minutes! The 1.5 hour ride home was scary and bumpy at 2:30 in the morning.  We finally arrived at the plaza San Francisco at 4am and had to walk 3 blocks to our hostel since the driver wouldn't drive the 9 of us to the Plaza de Armas.

A very long day for all of us and deserving of a very long rest.

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