We first went to Easter Island (see my review of that too!). Left that amazing island on a Thursday. Our flight was late leaving EI which was going to make us late to Lima and possibly late to Cusco, therefore making us miss our prearranged ride to Ollantaytambo!!! We finally boarded the airplane about three hours late…got to Santiago. A lady took DH, me and a half dozen others aside. We didn’t know why at first but, on behalf of LAN Airlines, she brought to us to a Holiday Inn across the street and booked us a room and gave us a voucher for a meal in their restaurant. We brought our bags to our room but I insisted on going back to the airport to get tickets from Lima to Cusco, knowing there were limited flights but wanting to get us to Cusco in the AM. Our original flight would have gotten us to Cusco about 6AM which I wanted, to get us there early, because then we had a 2 hour taxi ride to Ollantaytambo. The first flight we would be able to make and that they had ANY seats on left Lima at 9:30. But it only had one seat. The next flight didn’t leave until noon. I said I wanted to be on the 9:30 flight. Period. So a young man behind the counter said ‘Give me a minute’. He took about 30 but when he came back we had two seats! So phew! And it was good DH came with me because we both needed to be present, with our passports, to arrange this. With that taken care of we went to the restaurant. Had some yummy fish! Went to the room. DH tried to nap but couldn’t so we each took a shower and then went back to the airport for the 4AM flight to Lima. When we were going through at the gate to board, it took a minute because they had changed our seats from what was on our boarding passes. They had moved us up to first class! Yahoo!!! The minute we got to our seats, the stewardess brought us each a glass of orange juice. The seats were the kind that totally reclined and your head was kind of inside a hood. It was nice. DH and I both slept straight through the entire flight. Kind of sad we didn’t get a meal! But ah well, it was still an experience.
Got to Lima about 8 so we had an hour and thirty minutes to get our bags, go through customs and check in to Cusco. The line to check in was extremely long but an agent was checking what flight you were on and if you were leaving soon, she moved you up to the front. So we were moved up and got to the gate in plenty of time. Got to Cusco. Into the taxi which I had emailed from Santiago that our arrival time was different from what was originally scheduled, and off we go. Stopped at Tierra Viva, the hotel we would be coming back to in Cusco because we were limited to 11 pounds of bags on the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Very pleased with the hotel!!!!
We drove through the Sacred Valley which was neat. Saw the Urumamba River. Got to Ollantaytambo and there was a festival going on! Our driver said it was a Mother’s Day festival. He took us to our hotel, Apu Lodge, which was marvelous. VERY peaceful. An American lady owns and runs it. She arrived in Ollantaytambo about 15 years ago and fell in love with the town. When this land was for sale she bought it and built the hotel. We put our bags in the room and went to walk into the plaza. It was great seeing all the locals in their colorful outfits! We watched some men carry large wood loaded with what looked like baked chicken to feed everyone. There was a lady on a platform in the middle of the plaza giving things away. I wanted to walk back to the edge of town where we first entered because there was an interesting gate so we headed that way. It was fun walking down the cobblestone street with the open gutter. A ball came rolling down a gutter from a side street so DH caught the ball and we went to give it back to the boy we had seen with it when we first headed into town. We didn’t see him but there were three other boys so we offered the ball to them. And it went into the gutter again…must be a common occurrence. I asked the boys if I could take their picture and they said sure but then two of them got distracted by something and ran away. But the third let me take his picture. He was cute with missing front teeth. Then he held out his hand and said ‘Un mille!’ He wanted money! I had read that the kids do this. I said ‘O yeah. You want money!’ I gave him dos mille. We went on our way to the gate which was really neat. Expect it was an entryway from when the Incas lived here. It looked like their constriction techniques, with ‘flying steps’, and they were the original settlers of this town. Before the Spanish invaded in the mid 1500’s. Went back to the plaza and watched the festival some more. Did some shopping. And then went to a restaurant, Ruka Rumi, Ruth at the hotel recommended. It was excellent! Kind of a cave like atmosphere. I had alpaca in an onion mustard sauce and DH had pasta. After strolling through the plaza again, where things were winding down, we headed back to the hotel. We had had a long night and were exhausted. It was only about 7 but we were ready for bed. So the little boy that was newly arrived and had a whistle that sounded like a bird chirping really annoyed DH…
Either he stopped blowing the whistle or we were we didn’t hear it but we both slept well.
Next morning we had breakfast in the lobby and talked with some of the other tourists. A mom and her 10 YO old son ‘Don Mario’. I said ‘Oh, hi Don!’ And he said ‘It’s Don Mario!’ Oops!
Headed for the Incan ruins where, back in the 1500’s, the Incan chief fought off the Spanish invaders. Pretty cool!!! We hired a guide which was necessary but still kind of worthless. At one point he took a ten minute phone call and then didn’t bring us to all the sights he had promised at the start. I guess cause he ran out of time. But he did point out some things which we wouldn’t have known otherwise and gave us knowledge we used over and over at other Incan sites.
We then had our pictures taken with the Incan Chief at the entrance to the ruins and then went into the market. Always fun!!! Watched a lady weaving and bought one of her pieces. Passed on a book about the Sacred Valley until the vendor came running after us to accept the price we had offered him. Was going to go to a restaurant for lunch but ended up having gelato. I had chocolate and limone of course! Went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage which we had left at the desk and headed to the train station.
We had to walk down a road that the river ran alongside of. Tons of flowers all the way. It was beautiful! Then there were market stalls just before entering the passenger area. We walked on by…shopped out by that point! We went to the outside passenger waiting area which was quite comfy. They had complimentary tea, including coca tea so I tried some. It was very light. There were a couple trains in the station but they didn’t have anything posted to indicate which train went where so we asked a uniformed guy walking by and he said ‘Next one’. Those trains left, another arrived. We asked another uniformed guy, showed him our tickets, and he said ‘Next one.’ Our train was scheduled to depart at 1:30 and it was 1:25 and no other train had arrived. We had reservations on a vistadome and the one that was sitting there didn’t look like the vistadome we took in Alaska because the windows in the roof were much smaller. But when it got so close to departure and it was the only train there I said to DH ‘Something’s not right. Let’s go check this train out.’ So we went to see the lady that was helping passengers board and sure enough, this was our train! She helped us on and another lady led us to our seats which were in the very back of the last car (seat #’s 1 and 2). They were facing the back of the seats in front of us and she said ‘These turn around. Would you like me to do that for you?’ We said ‘Oh YES please!!!’ because there was a huge window looking out the back of the car! So we put our feet up on the shelf below the window and watch the scenery go by. It was sooooo excellent. We saw snow covered mountains, Incan ruins, the river, tunnels, villages, people on the racks, locals and hitchhikers, the jungle, it was wonderful. About an hour and a half ride.
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