Friday, May 30, 2008

Trekking The Inca Trail: Lima, Cusco, Pisaq, Saqsaywaman, Aguas Calientes (Part VI)

Aguas Calientes

I woke up after about an hour, some people had gone to get ready to go back up to the ruins and there was just me and Amy left. We decided to go and wake up Alex, we did this by climbing into bed with him, Amy on one side and me on the other. He got the fright of his life but it woke him up! Alex went off to visit the ruins while Amy and me went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Afterwards we joined up with Stevie to explore the town.

Aguas Calientes or Pueblo Machu Picchu as it is also known is the end of track as far as the train from Cusco goes. Although it is obvious that it wouldn't amount to much without all the visitors to the ruins it still has some charm. Definitely very Spanish in feel it lies across the Urubamba river, about half an hour's drive from the bus station near Machu Picchu.

Once you get away from the area around the river and the railway line you have to walk steeply uphill to get anywhere. There seemed to be one main street leading up from the river, half way up was our hotel and some bars, then you get to a market selling all manner of everything. This is where I chose to buy some Inca Kola T-Shirts, this is actually where a lot of our group chose to buy T-Shirts and at approximately a pound each who can blame us.

As you walk further up this street it gets more run down just before what appeared to be a building site you come across the reason for the town's name. In Spanish Aguas Calientes means hot water, and here you'll find some hot springs, not as picturesque as it sounds though. Here you'll find some rickety old corrugated iron changing cubicles and a big swimming pool full of green water. Yes it was warm and it did seem to be natural water but it wasn't clear where it came from. Stevie and me sampled the natural water while Amy made her back to the hotel. For all the cheap tackiness of the 'hot springs' it was very relaxing and whiled away at least half an hour in the water. We then made our back to the town and the bar across from our hotel.

We were all meeting up for lunch at a restaurant called Toto's House for lunch before we caught a train back towards Cusco. The train was due at a half past two and we could get into Toto's any time after one o'clock. A few of us bumped into each other and made our way down for Lunch at around one. The food was really good, it was already paid for as part of our trip, if we wanted beer it was extra.

After lunch we seemed to be waiting a long time for our train, probably a couple of hours. It wasn't a tedious wait because I just lay in the sun chatting to my fellow trekkers and watching the goings on around the station. Eventually the train arrived and we all piled on we would be travelling back to Ollantaytambo where we had been a few days earlier. From there we were catching a bus back to Cusco and the Jose Antonio hotel. You can go by train all the way from Aguas Calientes to Cusco but it is quicker to go by train and bus.

The train journey was quite quiet really. Essentially we were on our way home now so most people were in a reflective mood. The train track is on the other side of the Urubamba river from where we walked on days four and five and we could see a lot of the trail which we had covered. From this side of the river it was quite a feeling of achievement to see the distance that we had covered. The sun was setting as we made our way to Ollantaytambo and the Andes looked especially beautiful in the late evening sunshine.

By the time we got to Ollantaytambo it was dark, from the train we made our way through the crowds to the buses which were waiting for us. As we now had all our luggage this had to be loaded on to the tops of the buses. Once Libby was sure that everyone in the party was on a bus we started the relatively short but sometimes hair raising journey to Cusco. These bus drivers do this every day but for the unitiated the windy mountain roads coming down into Cusco were quite an experience! We all arrived in one piece and so we were back at the Jose Antonio for one night before our twenty four hours of travelling back to the UK.

Cusco 2

Once we had freshened up after our journey from Aguas Calientes we were out the door of the hotel quite quickly. There was one more buffet meal to go to and this time it was in a restaurant next door to the Cross Keys pub on Plaza de Armas (see Cusco page). This was by and away the best meal of the whole trip. The range of food from many different countries was magnificent. There was live music and some of us, not me, were dragged up to dance with members of the group.

After the meal most of us went across the corridor to the Cross Keys. It all started pretty tamely but I do remember a Pisco drinking competition or two. A good while later a group of us hit some of Cusco's clubs which were small, hot and sweaty but that didn't stop me staying in them until just before five o'clock in the morning. Myself and one person that I was with got a taxi back to the hotel and I fell onto my bed for about one hour's sleep.

Up at six, pack, breakfast and wait in the hotel lobby for our buses to the airport. We flying back to Lima, where we would spend the day before flying back to the UK via Madrid in the evening. We weren't pre-checked in to the flight from Cusco so we all had to check in individually. Once that was out of the way it was quite a wait in Cusco airport, which does not have many/any facilities to kill time with. Then we were on the plane for our short flight to Lima. The flight, about an hour, was uneventful.

Lima 2

As usual it was overcast in Lima. To fill the day we had two options, go to a seafood restaurant next to the ocean for some Peruvian seafood or go to a shopping centre with cafes and a chance to buy some last souvenirs. I chose the seafood option as I love seafood and it is a speciality of the Pacific coast of Peru. It was only a short drive from the airport to the restaurant, La Rosa Nautica (see links), which was at the end of a walkway with the ocean on all sides.

We had drinks in the bar while we waited for the staff to prepare our food. Plates of everything seafood is how I can best describe it. After a leisurely lunch we sat outside in the sunshine drinking wine and relaxing. The buses with the shoppers came back and we got on for the short journey to the airport.

At the airport we checked in and made our way through to departures. We had a couple of hour's wait here so after looking around the duty free shops I made our my to the bar. It was nice to see that I was the first of our group to have this idea. A few beers later it was time to get on our flight to Madrid, this was an eleven hour flight and I slept for the first ten of those. In the last hour Libby, who was travelling back to the UK with us, very kindly drew on a map where we had been trekking. The area we covered was not shown on everyday maps of Peru but Libby had managed to find a supply of maps which did shopw the right places. Once my map was complete I lent it to a few others to copy onto their maps. On schedule, we arrived in Madrid.

Transferring from arrivals, once we had got through passport control, to our next plane was about a five minute walk. I had a small penknife confiscated at the security checks, it was in my hand luggage. The suprising thing was that I'd travelled from Cusco with it in the same place and nobody noticed it. After two hours wait at Madrid we boarded our flight to London Heathrow, the final leg of our journey home.

We arrived at Heathrow just after five o'clock in the afternoon. To avoid emotional scenes and the fact that I'm not very comfortable with goodbyes I collected my luggage and mad my exit straight away. I was keen to get to the airport's coach station to try and get on an earlier coach to the one that I had booked. Luckily I got an earlier coach so it was just a matter of waiting for that. Just after nine o'clock in the evening of Sunday 6th June 2004 I arrived back in Exeter. I was met by my wife and children who all very glad to see me. So that was it, back to reality.

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