A Travellerspoint blog

7. Day of Rest

Cusco, Peru
Monday, December 19, 2016

The sound of raindrops outside my window coupled with the comfort of a warm bed cradling a tired body motivates me to sleep in. Of course, understand that my version of sleeping in is having the sun come up before I do. There will be no sunrise to view in Machu Picchu with the heavy overcast this morning and, frankly, I don't know that a return trip up the mountain (in the rain?) would enhance my experience. I now own the memory without mortgage; it is forever mine and incorporates only sun and warmth and dry pathways.

Siince I have a train to catch at 2:55, prudence would require me lining up to leave the top of the mountain no later than 12:30 to make my way down, across the bridge to change busses, walk to The Waman Hotel, retrieve my bag, grab a bite of lunch and then walk to the train station, arriving there no later than 2:30 to check in for Peru Rail Train Expedition 74 back to Ollantaytambo. Returning, I am assigned seat B/40; with the regular folk. I am scheduled to arrive at Ollantaytambo Station at 4:31. Not 4:30.

At the station, my Adios Adventure Travel driver will collect me for the drive back to Cusco and the JW Marriott. I must commend Heather Corona and her team at Adios Adventure Travel at heather@adiosadventuretravel.com or (757) 270-9293. They have been seamless, efficient and thoughtful. They were a purely lucky find for me as I stumbled across them on a random Google search. The Russell Luck holds.

Breakfast is included on the top (sixth) floor of the Waman Hotel and it includes good hot coffee (if you cut it with hot water) and a fine scrambled egg dish with ham and cheese and spinach. Wi-Fi is spotty today but a window opens and I WhatsApp B4 for a nice chat. As we talk, the rain outside stops and a ray of sunshine peeks through if for only a moment.

Edward improves daily and they are having a fine time cooking together. Today, it's chili. I hear about sales results, weather, store traffic, politics, average daily margins, conversion rates, the remaining Xbox inventory, competition’s reliance on deep discounting, her amazing team back in KC and across the country and then a bit more news about sales numbers as they relate to the number of days that remain before Christmas versus the day of the week it is. Our version of love talk on the phone is a bit different than most. But I love it as I love her.

My morning stroll takes me up and down the steep sidewalks where, at this hour, I am greeted more by animals than by people. Cats and dogs predominate the sidewalks which, on these steep slopes, are ramps on either side and steps in the middle. The ramps are easier. Children on the way to school wear their bright blue uniforms and some sport Santa hats. Dogs relieve themselves as they roam freely; there is no owner at the other end of a leash with a poop bag so it is a good idea to watch your step.

Christmas decorations here are only a bit different than those at home but when the centerpiece of the municipal decoration in the town square is a tree made of discarded plastic water bottles painted green, you quickly remember not seeing any pine trees in these mountains. Recycling takes many forms.

Occasionally I hear a loud ringing sound which I can describe only as being exactly like that which we have heard in western movies when the cook had the chuck wagon meal ready to eat and he rang his triangle with a metal stick to call the cowboys to supper.

Here, that triangle is rung by a municipal employee of the trash collection department. Residents emerge from their homes and businesses with bags of trash whereupon they dump it into his reinforced super-heavy-duty plastic bags after which he and his team remove them to some unseen location. The streets of Aguas Calientes are not big enough for a garbage truck or even a small car so this solution seems perfect. The ringing of the bell, however, is reminiscent in reverse of the ice cream man coming through our neighborhoods at home.

Sharing the sidewalks are scores of what I am told are independent contractor delivery men who push and pull two-wheelers of this and that here and there. Juan told me that they can make a lot of money in a day. My impression is that they earn ever penny. Or Sol as the currency here is known. Google tells me that $1.00 US equals 3.40 Peruvian Sol. In 2013, the rate was nearer to 2.4 Peruvian Sol. Food here is inexpensive even if you generously round up and leave U.S. currency. But, beware. Shopkeepers and restauranteurs won’t accept a bill that has even the tiniest of tears or shows much wear. I learned long ago that the best practice is to go to the bank and get lots of spanking new bills in low denominations: ones, fives and tens to bring when traveling to third world countries. I have experienced this many times and it is terribly frustrating to present perfectly acceptable if a bit worn currency only to have it refused.

This one dollar bill was refused at this restaurant but I found a better one that wasn't torn.dc8d2e50-3023-11ea-8eff-198834a34b7c.jpgdbf9a0e0-3023-11ea-ae21-25bd8f6a8a33.jpgdbebbe30-3023-11ea-ac06-cf7fc0c5a55c.jpgdbe70340-3023-11ea-89d5-d79c1e4ee961.jpgdbe2bd80-3023-11ea-ade5-b185fc1f7af2.jpgdbcd60c0-3023-11ea-ae21-25bd8f6a8a33.jpgdbd9e3e0-3023-11ea-8d3f-89b94d4e23e6.jpgdbc59890-3023-11ea-89d5-d79c1e4ee961.jpgdbbebac0-3023-11ea-ade5-b185fc1f7af2.jpgdbb78ed0-3023-11ea-8d3f-89b94d4e23e6.jpgdbbac320-3023-11ea-ac06-cf7fc0c5a55c.jpgdb8f6d60-3023-11ea-89d5-d79c1e4ee961.jpgdb6cf140-3023-11ea-89d5-d79c1e4ee961.jpgdb8693c0-3023-11ea-ade5-b185fc1f7af2.jpgdbae18f0-3023-11ea-89d5-d79c1e4ee961.jpgdb9c3ea0-3023-11ea-ac06-cf7fc0c5a55c.jpgdba602a0-3023-11ea-ade5-b185fc1f7af2.jpgdb9560d0-3023-11ea-8d3f-89b94d4e23e6.jpgdb799b70-3023-11ea-8d3f-89b94d4e23e6.jpg

Outside the restaurant balcony is a bridge which contains a few lover's locks.

B4 has said to me, three times I think, how happy she is that I am in Peru where "there are no terrorists." I am glad that ISIS is not here but I have chosen not to discuss the Shining Path in any detail. Less than four years ago, the U.S. Department of State, over the vehement objections of the Peruvian government, issued a travel warning to tourists visiting the Cusco region including Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. State cited a report in the Peruvian newspaper La Republica that said "leaders of the cocaine-financed Shining Path outlaw band discussed kidnapping foreigners, principally Americans, in intercepted communications." State’s Facebook page exhibited the warning on February 13, 2013, but today specifically notes that travel is “permitted” for even U.S. Government Employees in the Machu Picchu area and the City of Cuzco (spelling on US Government site). Travel is restricted in many other areas of Peru. I have seen high presence of police during my journey even in places where I might not expect to see law enforcement personnel. But, safe to say, I am mindful of my surroundings here as I am in all places I travel, as should all travelers, including inside the U.S.

At the Aguas Calientes train station I meet Chris from Vancouver or Calgary or both, a 40ish fellow who volunteers that he smokes too much, drinks too much and womanizes too much but very much enjoys traveling the world with his parents. They seem nice. Interesting.

My seat mate on the train was Max from Cognac originally, now living in Paris. Max is a professional sports writer following the professional tennis circuit. We discussed Kansas City born tennis professional Jack Sock’s mental game, foie gras, global travel and President-Elect Donald J. Trump. Max just finished hiking the Inca Trail and is headed for Lima to catch a non-stop to Paris and a train to Cognac lest he face the wrath of his mother should he not be at her Christmas table.

Both Chris and Max were at the gates to Machu Picchu before they opened this morning and said they opened very late due to dense fog; a fog that did not clear until 10:00am. Again, The Russell Luck at work. My day was much better spent in Aguas Calientes that it would have been sitting for three hours in a bus or standing that long is wet conditions waiting for a delayed entrance.

At Ollantaytambo, Adios Adventure Travel driver Jordi holds a sign with my name on it and we walk up the hill to the car park, drive though the town and onto the highway for the 90-minute drive to Cusco. I must commend Heather Corona and her team at Adios Adventure Travel at heather@adiosadventuretravel.com or (757) 270-9293. They have been seamless, efficient and thoughtful. They were a purely lucky find for me as I stumbled across them on a random Google search. The Russell Luck holds.

I had forgotten that much of this drive is uphill because Cusco as you will recall is at much higher altitude. Few stretches are straight. Jordi passes when he can but, most of the time, he can’t. His taste in music leans to Roy Orbison who croons Pretty Woman on the radio making me think of my reunion with B4, now but five days ahead.

All manner of traffic is on this road. We dodge double parked vehicles, slow for speedbumps and dogs, avoid pedestrians, three wheeled taxis, four wheeled all terrain vehicles, passenger vans crammed with commuters, some with trailers, ubiquitous motorbikes (many carrying propane tanks for one reason or another) and, in one case, an old woman in a white Peruvian stetson-type hat leading two bulls on one leash. Nothing, however, is more bothersome than the lethargic heavy truck carrying too much of something getting nowhere fast, arriving someplace late, yielding for none. This is an unwelcome contrast to vehicle-less Aguas Calientes.

The December 19, 2016, setting sun illuminates glaciers on mountain tops as we wind onward in our Hundai on a darkened highway adorned with no streetlamps, fluorescent paint or guardrails as lightning rages in a thunderstorm skimming a far-off ridge clean of power line or trees. The music has shifted to a Spanish ballad with lots of guitar, brass and bongo as it begins to rain, softly at first and then hard as the lightning overtakes us.

Posted by paulej4 17:26 Archived in Peru

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