Through the Andes

Aguas Calientes Travel Blog

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driving towards the Sacred Valley

Today is bus-day. We leave our luggage at the hotel in Cusco and take each only an up to 5-kilo-bag with us. We're supposed to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, and there only small luggage is allowed. Tomorrow we will return to our Cusco hotel and stay for another night.

The bus takes us through the Andes mountain, following the so called "Sacred valley" where the "Sacred river" runs. It's absolutely beautiful!! We pass little villages with huts made of clay bricks, fertile fields with corn and other vegetables and grain growing on them. The surrounding mountains are high, covered in forest, grass and sand, with rocks peeking every now and then.

Pisac alley
On many slopes are terraced fields built in, lush with fresh green. It's just absolutely wonderful! We have good weather today with the sun shining. This high altitude has its perks. The air is fresh and brisk, it's warm yet chilly, and the sun burns ruthlessly. Soon we all have our noses burnt.

Our first stop is the little town of Pisac. The bus driver takes our big bus through the narrow alleys leaving just a few centimeters space between the bus and the houses, and absolutely convinced that the pedestrians will dodge his speeding vehicle automatically without him having to use the siren or, God forbid, slow down. We passengers protest, and argue that he could have parked the bus outside the city and we would have walked the distance, but he just gives us a proud smile. As we arrive at the town market, we see more big buses cramped on the little market square, and see that we are just another bunch of stupid tourists invading a quiet little place.

the Sacred Valley
Excuse my sarcasm, but this just made me angry, and never wanting to take organized tours again. 

The market place was interesting, with a lot of stuff for sale. Really, if you want to buy souvenirs and clothes and leather goods, this is a good place. I also found vegetable colour which made me very happy. And the offer of fruits and vegetables were revealing, since many of the kinds where new to me. I bought some and they showed to be yummy.

We stopped at a restaurant on a sidetrack, it's a hacienda-style house with a big garden. There's also a little zoo with llamas and parrots. The food is delicious and served buffet-style. There's also the obligatory can with coca tea - it's omnipresent at every hotel, complimentary coca tea for free. Coca leafs are supposed to relief high altitude sickness and the natives drink it a lot and chew it as well.

It tastes like common green tea, I'd say. Anyway, as I've finished lunch I sit in the grass and enjoy my cup of tea. 

Our next stop is Tambomachay. This word means resting place, and it's supposed to be the highway lay-by of the Inka-times. Many roads have been built by the Inkas, and places like Tambomachay, is believed, served as resting places along the way. There are other theories as well, I guess it's hard to understand a people's history when there is no written record about it. Nevertheless, it sure is an impressive site, though most of it lays in ruins. Especially fascinating is a carving in a mountain: it looks like a random natural rock formation at first glimpse, but at closer look it reveals a human head with a beard and crown. Legend has it, it was carved into the mountain representing an Inka-god.

I guess, we'll never know.

Outside the site there's a big market selling handicraft and fakecraft, clothes, souvenirs, ceramics and other colourful stuff. Such markets seem to be everywhere, even beside the roads. Everybody is trying to sell you something. Although, it has to be said that the sales(wo)men were never agressive. Haggling is expected. 

In the late afternoon we reached Utuyamba, the starting point of the Machu Picchu train. The train ride takes a little more than an hour, in a very comfortable and modern train. It has windows in the ceiling as well, and we are served a snack and beverages. I try the famous Inka Kola, a latin american brand. It's not brown but yellow, bubbling and tastes like lemon, more sweet than sour. It's actually really good! The rails follow the sacred river, and the scenery changes from rocky to tropical.

Aguas Calientes
It also passes by the starting point of the famous Inca-trail.

Finally we reached Aguas Calientes, a smalltown in a hollow, surronded by high peaks, with the river running through. The nature is lush and green, and it's evident we're in the tropics. Except for the weather, for it's comfortably moderate. Our hotel is awesome! It's bungalows in a rain forest! Just beautiful! We are all very excited. Behind our bungalow is a terrace bordering the rain forest, and three deck chairs are just waiting for us. First thing we do is sit there untill the day becomes night and enjoy the fresh air and surrounding nature, with sounds coming from the forest and enjoying the view on a mountain peak.

The next morning I get up very early and go for a stroll in the hotel garden. It had rained that night and everything was still wet.

our terrace at the Inkaterra Hotel
I discovered many flowers and plants that were new to me, and saw some beautiful birds. The Inkaterra Hotel also houses over 80 species of orchids and a couple of endemic plants and animals. I have to say, so far this was the best place I've ever stayed at.

 

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driving towards the Sacred Valley
driving towards the Sacred Valley
Pisac alley
Pisac alley
the Sacred Valley
the Sacred Valley
Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes
our terrace at the Inkaterra Hotel
our terrace at the Inkaterra Hotel
Pisac market square
Pisac market square
Pisac market
Pisac market
driving through the Sacred Valley
driving through the Sacred Valley
lunch break
lunch break
llamas
llamas
baby alpaca
baby alpaca
towards Tambomachay
towards Tambomachay
Tambomachay
Tambomachay
see the head in the middle
see the head in the middle
carved head or natural rock format…
carved head or natural rock forma…
market at Tambomachay
market at Tambomachay
Tambomachay market
Tambomachay market
Train station to Aguas Calientes
Train station to Aguas Calientes
carefree :)
carefree :)
train ride to Aguas Calientes
train ride to Aguas Calientes
starting point of the Inca-trail
starting point of the Inca-trail
Machu Picchu train
Machu Picchu train
our bungalow at the Inkaterra Hotel
our bungalow at the Inkaterra Hotel
endemic plants and animals at the …
endemic plants and animals at the…
Aguas Calientes
photo by: Vikram