Aguas Calientes, Peru: Arriving at the Base of Machu Picchu [Day 17]

Day 17 | Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ok, I am getting a little weary of these early morning wake up calls. We have to be at the train station at 6:10 am this morning and the train station is about a 35 minute taxi drive from our hotel.

It is bizarre to drive along filthy streets, with packs of mangy dogs roaming all over, scavenging through trash bins for their next meal and native Peruvians going about their daily lives preparing for the work day ahead of them, to witness all of this in juxtaposition to the very clean and trendy tourist centric train station waiting area and rail cars that we are about to board for Aguas Calientes. Some how Peru Rail has a monopoly on transportation to Aguas Calientes. You can only get to Aguas Calientes via train or trekking. As a tourist that means you pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 (USD) to $890 (USD) per person for round trip tickets from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. In a country where the minimum monthly wage is just $250 (USD) or 750 Peruvian Nuevos Soles it makes you realize what a money maker Machu Picchu tourism is for the country.

Although the train ride is not supposed to just be a means of transportation but a scenic tour of its own I have to say I was not expecting it to go so slowly. It easily took twice as long as it should have to cover the distance between Cusco and Aguas Calientes. To make matters worse you are sat around tables, two seats on each side of the table and we ended up across from a couple that immediately gave us the cold shoulder and refused to talk to us.

Aguas Calientes is a small town that really seems to revolve around Machu Picchu tourism. It is mainly made up of the train station, hotels, restaurants, the bus station, an artisans’ market and dozens of places to get cheap massages after hiking the Inca Trail or the various hikes at Machu Picchu.

We will settle into our hotel for the night, relax and get ready to tackle Machu Picchu tomorrow.

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