Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Inca Rail to Aguas Calientes

The next day I was pretty hungover and could think of nothing worse than getting up and packing my overnight bag to take with me to Machu Picchu.

After lots of faffing about my options for going to Machu Picchu, I had eventually decided on getting the train to Aguas Calientes, then walking to Machu Picchu for sunrise the next morning. As I mentioned the Inca trail was fully booked for another 10 days or so and although there were lots of other treks on offer, the weather had been so awful (with torrential rain everyday), that I couldn't think of anything worse than being wet and cold walking for 3-4 days solid.

So I laid in bed for as long as I possibly could trying to shake the hangover, then eventually gave in and got all my things ready just in time for my transfer to Ollantaytambo, where the Inca rail runs from.

We arrived in Ollantaytambo at around 2pm and the train wasn't leaving until 4pm which meant that we had time to explore the tiny town and visit some other Inca ruins that are close by and that been recommended as well worth a visit.

The Pinkuylluna ruins were situated on the side of a really steep hill and it took about 30 minutes to walk up there. Being at altitude, I found it much harder to catch my breath and you feel worn out after only a few steps so stopping along the way was essential. The climb was beautiful and the views were amazing, so it was nice not to have to rush and take it all in. The ruins themselves were a set of 3 long and thin buildings which sort of look like half houses. Inside there are lots of narrow corridors and walkways that link the 3 together.

We spent a while sat up at these ruins enjoying the views and the rare sun in the Sacred Valley, before heading off to the train station.

The Inca rail pulled into the station and surprisingly for South America left bang on time. It was a cute little vintage looking train and was tiny with only 2 carriages. The inside was surprisingly nice with leather seats and they didn't try to squeeze 3000 people into the aisles, leaving rare space to breathe on public transport! Only people who had assigned seats were allowed on. Apparently the train line from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes is the worlds most expensive section of track considering the distance it travels, so I suppose they wanted to give people value for their money.

The train journey was really picturesque as it travelled through the misty valleys alongside a heavy flowing river and some snowy mountain tops.

Everything was going perfectly according to plan, but of course it wasn't going to stay that way. About an hour into the trip (the total journey is only about 2 hours), the train came to a stop on the tracks. We sat there for about 45 mins before we were told that there the rain over the past few days had caused a small avalanche of rocks to fall onto the track. They were still slowly falling and needed to be cleared before we could move on. About 5 HOURS later and we were on the move again, but by this point I was understandably feeling quite agitated and was more than ready to get off. It was completely pitch black by this point, meaning we couldn't see the rest of the views on the remaining hour of the journey.

So a 2 hour journey ended up being over 6 and we arrived in Aguas Calientes around 11pm. After finding our hostel, we were briefed by our guide and crawled into bed around 12.30am, certainly not ideal when I was surviving on very little sleep from the night before AND we needed to be up and ready for the climb to Machu Picchu by 4am!