Peru Rail – Cusco to Aguas Calientes (2009)

Peru Rail – Cusco to Aguas Calientes (2009)

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Machupicchu is a demanding destination. I had to fly for over 36 hours, hopping three flights to reach Lima. A one-hour flight from Lima brings me to Cusco at a height of 12000 feet, After  acclimatization in Cusco I am ready for Machu Picchu. One can trek to Machupicchu for which one would need several days, or take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. This railway journey has won the World Heritage tag for being the tallest railway in the world – that of course, was before Tibet railway was built.

I can’t afford the luxury of hiking the Inca trail for more reasons than one. So I take the four-hour ‘backpacker’ train ride from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The journey, virtually all of it along the Urubamba river, is a tranquilising experience. Emerald terraces of maize and potato fleet past while a majestic mountain range forms an imposing backdrop.  The river roars, hisses and hurtles through rocks, cliffs and expansive valleys. You unwind completely and let the train rock you to a stupor. Aguas Calientes, as the name suggests has hot springs, but a dip will have to wait until you have completed your main project – visiting Machu Picchu.  The town, drenched in a steady drizzle and as verdant as they come, might have been beautiful, had not hasty development overtaken it.  Bars and cafes line the streets and on offer are Inca Cola and Brahma Beer! There is a thriving artisanal bazaar hawking local crafts and alpaca sweaters, caps and socks. But there is no time to linger and haggle. You join the long queue to board the battery-run minibuses that wend their way up the steep slopes to the archeological ruins.


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