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    South by South America Tour – Peru Part 9

    Sunday, October 20, 2019
    Cuzco to Machu Picchu, Peru

    Dramatic scenery on the road from Cuzco to Hidroelectrica, Peru.
    Dramatic scenery on the road from Cuzco to Hidroelectrica, Peru.

    Snowcapped peaks on the road from Cuzco to Hidroelectrica, Peru.
    Snowcapped peaks on the road from Cuzco to Hidroelectrica, Peru.

    This morning, I schlepped over to the Hostel Kokopelli to catch a van to Hidroelectrica. At 7:30 am, a rep from the tour operator Intur showed up and walked me and a couple of other folks a couple of blocks north, where we joined some others to form a larger group. After waiting for some more people to show up, we all walked a few blocks over to a couple of vans. I was almost the last person called onto one of the vans, which held about 30 people, so I got a crappy aisle seat near the back.

    A gravel road perched precariously on a cliff near Hidroelectrica, Peru.
    A gravel road perched precariously on a cliff near Hidroelectrica, Peru.

    A lone restaurant at Hidroelectrica, Peru.
    A lone restaurant at Hidroelectrica, Peru.

    A while after we pulled out of the Cuzco area, we made our way through myriad hairpin curves and switchbacks through the hills and far away. In the Andes mountains, we encountered an extended array of astonishing scenery, ranging from super steep green-covered rock faces to majestic snow-capped peaks. After stopping for maybe 15 or 20 minutes a couple of times for snacks, we finally reached Hidroelectrica around 2:00 pm.

    A Peru Rail locomotive near Hidroelectrica, Peru.
    A Peru Rail locomotive near Hidroelectrica, Peru.

    A railroad bridge in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    A railroad bridge in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    In Hidroelectrica, we received a simple lunch at a lone restaurant in the middle of nowhere, where I got a plate of really plain spaghetti. Hey, at least it was warm. At 3:00 pm, I threw on my big backpack, grabbed my messenger bag and plastic bag full of water and snacks, and set out on the seven mile hike to the town of Aguas Calientes. The path–the surface of which ranged from rustic stones to grass do to dirt–ran parallel to the train tracks through valleys flanked by ultra steep mountain faces all around. After a while, the stuff I was carrying felt really heavy and started to weigh me down.

    A trailside restaurant in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    A trailside restaurant in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    Train tracks run through a beautiful valley in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    Train tracks run through a beautiful valley in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    While admiring the dramatic and gorgeous scenery, I had to walk very fast to make it to the town of Aguas Calientes before sunset. I didn’t want to deal with floundering around in the dark in an unfamiliar area with my headlamp. On the way, I was surprised to see a couple of rustic campgrounds, a few snack stalls, and even a some restaurants alongside the trail—all aimed at the hikers who ply this route daily. I don’t recall a mention of any of that sort of stuff when I read online accounts about this journey.

    Temporary hobos walk along the train tracks in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    Temporary hobos walk along the train tracks in between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    A Peru Rail train parked on a side track near Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    A Peru Rail train parked on a side track near Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    Finally, just before dusk, I trudged into the town of Aguas Calientes, a truly crass tourist trap with hostels, restaurants and souvenir shops all stacked up on top of each other amidst a blizzard of garish signage and tour buses beaching fumes all over the place. After getting my bearings with a map, I made my way over to the squeaky clean Eco Machu Picchu Hostel, where I shared a four-bed room with a guy from Switzerland. He was friendly, so we ended up going out to dinner together at an overpriced place where I ordered huevos rancheros. They even tacked on a mandatory 20% tip. I don’t normally eat in places like that.

    Walking into Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    Walking into Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    Overpriced huevos rancheros in Aguas Calientes, Peru.
    Overpriced huevos rancheros in Aguas Calientes, Peru.

    In addition to scores of touts and hawkers who beckon for your attention at every turn, Aguas Calientes boasts a lot of fancy pants hotels and restaurants that appeal to wealthy, old, gray haired Europeans and other such people from all over the world who come here in droves to visit Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most famous ruins. A little while after 10:00 pm, I hit the hay. Even though some kids were shrieking downstairs and a couple of people were talking out in the hall, I still fell asleep right away. I was just too exhausted to let anyone’s bullshit keep me awake.

    Words and photos ©2019 Arcane Candy.

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