17 October 2023 Cuzco to Aguas Caliente

In search of… a train

Link to more images at @Kapikoy100

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”

Maya Angelou

Cuzco being at an altitude of around 3,400m takes a while to acclimatise. Yesterday evening I started to feel unwell with a very sore throat, coughing and sneezing. This could be the result of many things (causes and conditions!) but I suspect it’s due to having Influenza, COVID, Diphtheria, Hep-B and Yellow Fever vaccinations within the last 6-days. Consequently, as a result of these (impersonal) causes and conditions, I did not have the best night sleep.

Regardless of my runny nose and lack of sleep, I was excited when the alarm sounded at 5 am. I had booked the 4.5 hour train trip from San Pedro Cuzco to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) as a treat. It is not a cheap travel option, sure it’s not the most expensive option, but still not cheap when you are traveling on a budget. 

Having taken about 150 trains across Europe and Turkey in the spring from the Atlantic Ocean (Tralee, Ireland) to Lapland (Narvik, Norway) to the Mediterranean (Algeciras, Spain) to the Armenian/Iranian borders in Turkey (Kars/Kapikoy), so I was really looking forward to this special train journey.

I wasn’t the first person waiting for breakfast at 6 am but I was the second. I had my packed bags with me so I had a whole hour to drink coffee and eat before heading next door to the train station at 7 am.

I could have opted for an earlier train but that wouldn’t have allowed for a  leisurely breakfast before walking to the station.

San Pedro Station is opposite the market of the same name. Even at 7 am there were old Indian women taking thier places along the walls of the market and laying out their wares?

At the station, the waiting room was already overflowing. It was reassuring to see a train at the platform being prepared for departure. However, the reassurance was short lived when the train left without any passengers.

The advertised time of departure 7:30 arrived and all the passengers for train number 203 to ‘Machu Picchu’ were escorted on to mini-buses’ for the ‘bimodal’ bus + train journey. 

The Buddha’s first realisation (or truth) is that you don’t get what you want. So, here I am again with (yet) another disappointment. Rightly or wrongly, I could feel myself contracting around a injured ego with anger arising. I took a breath and thought ‘OK’ the train will probably start at Poroy… just let it go.

As we approached Poroy, I could see a train in the station. The mini-buses didn’t stop at Poroy. I checked my emails and found one from Peru Rail saying that the schedule had changed but not explicitly how it had changed. It now became obvious that the mini-buses would take us to Ollantaytambo, meaning that rather than a four and half hour train journey, it would only be 1 hour and 40 minutes.

I am so disappointed about taking a bus! Thank goodness for ‘mindfulness’ in the sense of remembering-to-remember that this is just causes and conditions… it is not personal… the Universe is not conspiring against ‘me’. It took a little while but the disappointment and anger, and sense of being cheated, subsided. I settled back to enjoy the ride.

I noticed the labourers bent over in the fields and reminded myself of the universal reality that every living being must strive to survive.

The transfer from mini-bus to train went smoothly at Ollantaytambo. My carriage was not full so I had a table and four seats to myself. The train arrived in Aguas Calientes estation (Machu Picchu) exactly on time.

The Samananchis Machupicchu hotel had someone waiting for me at the station to walk me up the hill to the accommodation.

I was feeling very rough, so I decided to take a covid test which proved negative. Maybe this is just the side effects of all the various vaccines that I’ve been a party to over the last week.

I took a walk into Aguas Calientes town noticing the large queues at the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre. It seems to be a bit of a lottery for last minute tickets to the Machu Picchu site. I bought my entrance ticket months ago, before even booking train and air journeys.

I found my way to the bus ticket office (cash only) and bought my return boleto for tomorrow. I was told to get to the bus stop at 5:20 am. 

Satisfied, I went looking for Fika (coffee and cake).  Having been feeling so ill it was lovely to notice the sense of well being as I sipped a second cup of coffee (un café Americano mas, por favor) with the rain pouring down outside.

I had a very uninspiring dinner before setting my alarm for 4:30 am and another early night.

Budget Costs:

  • Train ticket San Pedro to Aguas Caliente (MP) bought in advance € 64 each way.
  • Entrance Ticket (bought in advance) for tomorrow € 39
  • Return Bus Ticket bought today for tomorrow € 23
  • Fika coffee and cheesecake € 9
  • Uninspiring dinner € 10 
  • Hotel Samananchis Machupicchu (Booking.com) € 28.5 per night with breakfast.

Link to more images at @Kapikoy100

Links for reference and further reading: 

In Search of… Something