Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 8, Aguas Calientes

Exhausted from our day at Machu Picchu, I told Doreen that I was not up for returning a second day. I didn't tell her, but I fantasized just staying in bed all morning! She wasn't up for going back to MP by herself. Perhaps, she was tired, too.

We showered and had breakfast. Most of the hotels do include a breakfast of some kind. The coffee is thick and dark....yes, a spoon would stand up in it! It makes a wonderful drink if one uses is as a "starter", adding 1/2 a cup of hot milk. I noticed a lot of tourists preferring instant coffee! Amazing.

Aguas Calientes is reached only by rail, and it exists for one purpose only: to accommodate tourists on the way to and from Machu Picchu. Built into the mountain, with a fast running river below, it reminds me a little of a California mountain town.

It had grown tremendously in the year since we were last there. Or, had we just missed seeing it all last year? We spent the day wandering around, checking out the shops which all had the same things. One notable exception was a store with crystals, altar objects of all kinds from Buddhas to dream catchers and rattles. None of it was for sale! It was the shop owner's altar.

Time passed quickly. Soon it was time for lunch, and then we had less than an hour at the market stalls outside the station before getting on the train back to Cusco. We were assigned to what at one time had been the dining car. Tables! We rode backwards, and there were no curtains on the windows to shield us from the hot sun. On the other side of the table were two young Japanese ladies who, with two other friends, had done the entire Inka trail. When I asked whether they carried their own packs, the laughed. The four of them had a guide, 9 porters and donkeys, and a variety of support personnel. They had 3 meals a day served to them on white clothed tables, cooked by white hatted chefs! So incongruous! They even had a white tented toilet set up for them, and when they complained about just HAVING to wash their hair, water was heated and a shower rigged.

I was feeling sick, and so grateful to get back to our hotel in Cusco. We had big plans for the next morning.

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