Aguas Calientes has no real reason to exist other
than as a staging post for Machu Picchu so as you would expect the railway
station is well provided with card holding hotel reps, collecting their
respective charges and herding them off to the hotels. Unfortunately none of them
had our hotel name on them and nor did any of them have our names on their list.
No problem, the El Presidente was only a few minutes walk away and one of the
reps would happily deliver us there on his way past.
The Hotel Presidente had never heard of us, or
Moises or Edgar (though it did have rooms - so we wouldn't be sleeping on the
street). OK we said here's Edgar's number can you call him and he can sort
everything out. The receptionist (an individual not well suited to a
customer facing environment) looked uncomfortable, in fact he squirmed. We
couldn't understand his problem - he had a phone on the desk. He'd
answered a call on it so it obviously worked. Was this some
subtle/embarrassing language problem? (Like the word (coger) to catch a taxi in
Spain, means to have sex with a taxi in South America.)
Actually it was more simple than that.
Edgar's number was a Lima cellphone and the call was going to cost $2.00!
We'll pay for the call. And that was that. We heard Edgar asking to
speak to the manager (not there, day off today being Sunday) and then for the
managers home and cellphone numbers. A few minutes later the phone rang
and it was obviously the manager with instructions. There was obviously
some problem, much squirming, we heard him mutter something about "already
booked", then more squirming. Anyway, a few moment later we were ensconced
in a decent double room with a balcony looking out over the river which tumbled
down from the mountains above and Edgar was on the phone - To check that we did
indeed have a river view!
So after a day wandering around Aguas Calientes
we were up before dawn to be on the first bus up the mountain to Machu Picchu -
advice from Edgar reinforced by Jackie and good advice it turned out to be.
There's an awful lot to see and by midday, in spite of the altitude it's very,
very hot and crowded.
||I don't know what we can say about Machu Picchu.
The whole place is spectacular, the setting is spectacular. In spite of
its scale, partly because of its remoteness, it was only rediscovered in 1911
and nobody is quite sure why or when it was built. It's the most visited
site in South America (and with good reason), but in spite of that, because of
the area that the site covers it doesn't feel crowded (particularly if you catch the 0500 bus!).
We've included a few photos which don't do it justice. Another one of
those places you'll just have to visit yourselves!
Well, by early afternoon, we've walked our legs
off and just can't absorb any more so we return to Aguas Calientes for a late long slow
lunch, collected our rucksack from the hotel and got on the backpacker train - off at Ollantytambu,
to be met by Moises' chauffer and a quick drive back to the hotel in Cusco.
Hmmm - all correct except there is no chauffer. There are a number of reps
and buses, but none looking for us. ĦQue surprise! We wait around
for a while until Ollantytambu is starting to look slightly worryingly empty
(there are no more trains tonight we confirm) and then we negotiate a price with
a local taxi for the 2 hour drive to Cusco. We'll take it up with Moises in the morning!
We do. He agrees to reimburse us (which he
never actually does - telling us that Edgar will do so - though it's only about
ten quid so we're not really worried about it). We spend a free day in
Cusco (the only free day in the trip), which is a lovely city, though very touristy, certainly we could have
spent a few more days there rather than in Lima. But, the next stage of
our journey is booked so it's another early start, this time the 1st class bus to
Puno which included 4 sight-seeing stops and lunch.