Sunday — April 12After a quick stop at the Café Inkaterra to check email and make contact with loved ones, we found the daily tea service set up by the bar near the dining room. A cup of hot tea hit the spot after our rather wet orchid walk; the bite-size cakes and cookies weren’t bad either (wink)! Afterwards we found a spot on the covered porch of the lobby building where, protected from the rain that continued to fall, we whiled away our time reading and writing blog entries.
Mui reads up on things to do in Cusco now that we have an extra day there.Around 5:00p, we bid adios to the Inkaterra staff, confirmed that our bags would be at the train station at 6:30p, and headed into Aguas Calientes for dinner. The second restaurant recommendation we’d been given was a place called Indio Feliz, but when we arrived at the restaurant, it didn’t look like they were ready to serve dinner — the lights were out, and the few people that were around did not acknowledge our presence even after we asked to see the menu. Looking for a familiar alternative, we went to Toto’s House next, but found it closed for dinner. Odd, considering its location and popularity.In the end, noting that the tables were occupied by what looked to be satisfied customers, we went into Fortaleza. All I can say is “DON’T.” Don’t go in there; don’t eat there. I’m not sure what the attraction was for all the other people who were dining at Fortaleza, but the food was horrible and the service was miserable. I’m still amazed we didn’t walk out after our watered-down, tasteless soup was served. As for the quinoa risotto — it had the consistency and the taste of wallpaper paste. Starving kids in third world countries notwithstanding, we left the food untouched!With our unpleasant dining experience behind us, we headed to the train station. What a zoo!!! Or more accurately, what a mob scene!!! People were tightly packed together, bags and cloth-bundles everywhere. Children crying; adults yelling — the racket they were making was incredible. Were we going to have to enter the fray to board our train? Luckily, the answer was no. It turns out that the crowd consisted of locals vying to board the next and only “local train” out of Aguas Calientes ahead of the strike. We later saw the train leave the station just ahead of ours — the cars looked like sardine cans packed thrice over. Even so, if the roar of dismay we heard is any indication, I don’t think that everyone was able to board.Happy that we were not traveling on the local train — it’s not even an option available to tourists — we collected our bags from the Inkaterra porter and walked through the gate leading into a much calmer waiting area open only to people traveling on the more expensive train services. The rain had finally ended, so we sat outside, watching the activity around us until it was time to board. Unlike our experience in Ollantaytambo, boarding here was a bit disorganized — perhaps because of the crowds generated by the extra train cars that had been put into service due to the impending strike. Once we made our way onto the platform and found the right car, the rest was easy.The “backpacker” service turned out to be OK, but I’m glad we were on it just for the short haul to Ollantaytambo and not all the way to Cusco. The train is so named because the cheaper fare tends to attract trekkers. There’s also no snack service. Nor is there a fashion show (don’t ask; glad I missed that on the Vistadome). In this case, we were in a “backpacker” train car, but it was attached to the 7:00p “vistadome” train. The primary difference between the two levels of service — seat configuration. On the “backpacker,” the configuration is two sets of two seats facing each other — this was the reason why we had opted for the more expensive service to begin with. But beggars can’t be choosers. Luckily, our companions were a couple from Germany who had the decency not to sprawl, so it wasn’t too bad.
There’s not much legroom on the backpacker train.
(photo by one of our German companions)