Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day Three - Travel and Aguas Calientes

We had a way too early wake up call at 3am. Yuck. We again went back to GRU and checked into our flights to Peru. Both flights weren't full and Jamie and I shared a three seat side of the plane between the two of us. Unfortunately, on the first flight (to Lima, five hours), the TV assigned to my seat didn't work. I tried to read but couldn't concentrate. Too tired.  After a two hour layover in Lima (including a full Customs stop with baggage) we boarded our very small plane to Cusco.  Thankfully, another uneventful flight. We were expecting to meet Matt at the Cusco airport to catch our arranged transportation, but he was nowhere to be found and unable to be contacted. We decided to go on without him, otherwise our plans would be significantly messed up and we had prepaid for a good number of the services in our itinerary in the remaining part of the day.

Cusco Transportation loaded Jamie, Alex, and I up in a "mini-bus" and we were off on our 90 minute ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo Train Station to pick up the Inca Rail to Aguas Calientes. On the way, our driver, Joel (Jo-EL), gave us local information about the towns as we passed through. He also did a pit-stop at Sacred Valley which was an absolutely beautiful view, even though it was semi-hailing when we got out of the van. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we knew that Matt had booked our train tickets on his credit card (and the purchaser is required to get the tickets at the counter with card in hand), but Alex was able to schmooze the lady behind the counter to give us our three tickets. Whew!

The train station is a station for both Peru Rail and Inca Rail. When we arrived, a Peru Rail train was just leaving, and we had about an hour to spare. After using the bathroom, our train arrived and we found that we were at the front of car B. I sat back to, while Jamie and Alex sat forward facing. The setup was four people situated around a table, on each side of the aisle. We had thought that the seat next to me would be free (Matt's ticket), but it wasn't. We ended up being accompanied by a lovely
Brazilian lady who loved to travel. Her English was also very good. During the trip, we were also
offered a snack/beverage service on the train. I got my first try at Inca Tea! So good with some sugar. I read before we left that the caffeine in the Cacao leaves helps with altitude adjustment, so it was a double bonus that the tea was tasty!

Upon arrival in Aguas (6p), we quickly learned that no one at the train station spoke English. Luckily, a lovely schoolteacher traveling with a group of students spoke to a local and got us walking directions to our hotel, Casa del Sol. We found it! Less than a five minute walk from the station, even with bags in tow. Matt had also booked this hotel, but we had no problem getting checked in under his reservation (as an aside, still no word from Matt!). We found at checkin that dinner was included with our stay, so we made a reservation for 8p, which gave us enough time to shower and wash away the travel grime.

The hotel restaurant was  The meal was a four course meal with plenty of options. I
started with an avocado salad with cucumber and a light dressing, followed by tomato cream soup with croutons and a hunk of cheese on the bottom, mushroom risotto with grilled sirloin, and a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Sound decadent? It was! The waiter, Carlos, was absolutely awesome and provided us with some in-house infused tequila; one shot with cacao leaves and the other with "fruta". After dinner we headed to bed, looking forward to our day at Machu Picchu, with still no word from Matt.

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