Hiram Bingham Orient express
We started our day quite early and took a crazy fast van ride through the city of Cuzco at muy rapido speeds to arrive at the Poroy train station where we we began our much anticipated journey along the Urubamba Valley to Puente Reinas.
During boarding and to add to the ambience several Peruvian groups entertained the train passengers while we waited for the train to depart.
The train ride was amazing. The service was first class and the scenery was breaktaking. We ate a 5 star meal with fine wine and champagne and enjoyed a most surprising musical treat in the bar area of the train. Here's a little "taste" of what we experienced by some very talented musicians.
After viewing some of the exquisite scenery of our trip we finally arrived in Puente Ruinas where we boarded a bus with a crazy man for a driver and proceeded up the mountain at breakneck speed where we would be dropped off in front off a lovely hotel called The Sanctuary Lodge. This would be where our guided trek up to Machu Picchu would begin. Some brave souls (not from our group) climbed the more treacherous and steep hike to Waynapicchu which is adjacent to Machu Picchu. Um. No, thanks!
**Worth noting: The Peruvian government limits the number of visitors to Machu Picchu to 2500 people per day. Believe me when you are climbing you will be glad about this limitation as some of the pathways are very narrow and steep and some people can get aggressive.
Also, tickets are not for sale at the entrance to Machu Picchu. Visitors can purchase entrance tickets in advance online directly with the government or authorized ticket agent or by booking a package tour. Names and passport numbers are needed in order to buy a ticket and these details are checked at the entrance to Machu Picchu so bring your passport if you are not travelling in a group. Tickets cannot be changed or transferred to another person once the ticket has been issued. The advantage here is that companies can't buy up all the tickets with the intention of selling them for a higher rate since they need real names and passport numbers to buy the tickets. There is no black market for entrance tickets. That's a good thing. The bad thing is you need to plan well in advance of your trip if you want to climb!
There were several folks in our group who were not in great shape or had bad knees. One of the guides was able to take them on a different hike where we would ultimately see them again at Machu Picchu. I particularly liked that no one felt left out from the experience.
Here are some photos of the hike up. Click on the first photo and it will create a gallery style viewing.
Upon our descent, everyone exhausted and worn out from the early day and the steep climb, we enjoyed a lovely brunch at The Sanctuary Lodge. Shortly thereafter, we re-boarded the bus for the descent to Aguas Calientes to shop at the outdoor market or simply take in some of the local atmosphere for a while before boarding the train to go back to Cuzco.
At the market, I fell in love with the hand-embroidered sheep pillow coverings which had been embroidered with alpaca wool. Beautiful and colorful with bright colors and excellent workmanship. I had seen them the day before in the lounge at the Rancho where we had eaten lunch. So beautiful.
Back on the train we enjoyed another amazing meal. Everyone was quiet and exhausted. The next morning would start early so several folks simply slept the 4 hours back to the Monasterio Hotel in Cuzco.
Michael and I travel mostly because we like learning and experiencing new things, seeing new places and learning about different cultures and food that only comes from getting out and about in the world.
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