February 20th, 2008 – by: sissanoel
The non-trekkers (minus photographer Melissa) spending a rainy afternoon in Aguas Calientes - Noel bankrupted everyone else to be Monopoly king!
Up early today for our mini-bus to Ollantaytambo
. We were supposed to get the train to Aguas Calientes
from Cusco, but due to strikes the station was shut. The road to Ollan. was frantic, with buses and taxis crammed to the brim trying to get to the train station there so people could get to Machu Picchu
(which was apparently closed entirely a couple of days ago). When we arrived in Ollan. we got stuck in a traffic jam, and were then presented with the site of over 1000 people trying to squeeze their way through one little gate into the train station. Chaos, of course, ensued as many trains were due to leave within minutes of each other and the station staff were not the most helpful. Standing at the gate saying "this is the 8.43am" is not particularly useful when only the front few can hear you and the times were the Ollan. departure times rather than the Cusco times we all had on our tickets. Anyway, we eventually got onto the Backpacker train and after passing through mostly cliff-side and rushing river scenery, arrived at Aguas Calientes. And guess what, in the usual Gap style of efficiency, there was no-one to meet us. We waited about 40 minutes while a young man from a local hotel tried to work out whether we were supposed to go with him, or whether the Gap group he was expecting was another one. Finally, our guide (who was on the Lares Trek) got into range, got the message left by our young man, and rang the hotel that was supposed to pick us up - she didn´t even know we were supposed to be arriving. The non-trekking group does feel a bit like we´re second class citizens in Gap´s view - turned out the trekkers came up on the good train, while we got the cheap one, and as you´ll read tomorrow, we were basically forgotten completely. This is not good, because we paid the same as the trekkers and got a lot less for it, so Gap made a good profit on non-trekkers.
As the Lonely Planet guide says, Aguas Calientes is basically the worst place in Peru - it´s massively overpriced and there is nothing to do (apart from the hot springs). After walking around and having the worst lunch we´ve had so far, we ended up buying some groceries to tide us over this evening, getting some beer and wine and staying in the hotel all day playing Monopoly! It also started raining at about 3pm and didn´t stop, so couldn´t do much else anyway. The hotel itself, Pachamama Inn, was lovely - the best bed and pillows we´ve had so far, plus an enormous spa bath! Very nice indeed.