Sunday, September 9, 2007

Aguas Calientes to Vancouver

We returned from Machu Picchu to a very wet Aguas Calientes, which I guess was not surprising since Aguas Calientes means Hot Waters. It was raining so hard we were reluctant to leave our very comfortable hotel suite looking out over the river and mountains. But since it was one of our last nights on the road, we walked around the town and settled on one of the many attractive cafes serving Peruvian food and Pizza. We were subsequently told we should have eaten at India Felix, but we didn’t discover it until lunch the next day. We’ll be recommending it the Moodies who are off to South America later this year.

While Aguas Calientes didn’t seem very attractive when we first arrived, it is a much better place than that described in most of the guidebooks. It has a dramatic setting with two rivers and a train track running through the town. A lot of money has been spent on upgrading the pedestrian realm, with new sidewalks and public spaces. Although the choice of hotels is limited at the moment, there are lots of cafes and restaurants, and far too many shops selling native artifacts.

We probably should have planned to go for a hike or visited the local museum on our last day. But we just were not up to it after climbing around Machu Picchu. Also, we had had far too many early mornings in the previous week. So we decided to sleep in and take it easy, until we discovered the hotel had a 9 am check out to accommodate its 10:30 check in time.

So we strolled about the town, running into others on our tour, who had also decided to not climb any more mountains or go on a hike. And we did have an excellent lunch at India Felix.

The train set off at exactly 3:55 and we were soon entertained by members of the crew doing native dances and putting on a fashion show down the aisle. I had to buy a black sweater, although afterwards discovered that Peruvian sweaters look much better on handsome Peruvians than they do on bald Canadians! When the train made a short stop at a small town, a young girl was out on the tracks trying to sell a wall hanging. I purchased it, although the negotiations had to end when the train started to move. She had a big smile on her face as we pulled away. Hopefully, one of my daughters will like it.

We didn’t take the train all the way back to Cusco. Because it has to do quite a bit of shunting from track to track, you can save forty minutes by getting off at the second last stop. Sure enough, the tour company was there with a big bus, from which we were transferred to a small bus and dropped off at our hotel. That evening we sought out the MAP restaurant, considered the best in Cusco, but couldn’t find it. So we ended up eating at the Inka Grill, another popular spot. I had the roast guinea pig, like Jesus did.

The next morning we discovered the Cusco Novatel also had a 9 am check-out. But the sun was shining and we wanted to see the town before flying back to Lima and on to Vancouver. Fortunately, we came upon a parade, with some wonderful costumes and music going through the main square. It was very joyous and a lovely way to say goodbye to Cusco.

Again, the flight to Peru was uneventful, which as you’ll recall, is good, but not always common in South America. We debated whether to go into Lima and try and see the Gold Museum, but weren’t sure if we would make it through the traffic in time. Furthermore, we had been so careful over the past week to ensure nothing went wrong to delay our return home. So we decided to check in early for our 11:30 flight and spend our time in the business lounge, finalizing the blogs and enjoying the airline’s hospitality. Unfortunately, this couldn’t happen. There was no one at the Continental Airlines desk to check us in until 7 pm, and without a boarding pass, we couldn’t get through customs and into the lounge. So I worked away in a restaurant, while Sally read, and went to the counter at 7:15. It was just being set up. At 8:15, it was still being set up. Then we learned what the problem was. The entire Continental Airlines world wide computer system was down! Eventually the system came back up, but of course, the flight was delayed.

So we now sit on Continental flight 261 from Houston to Vancouver. We are both quite excited at the prospect of being home. Other than having a camera stolen in Malaysia, difficulty getting a Belarus Transit Visa, and some challenges in India, we both agree the trip has gone very well. We have been to some wonderful places, and had many good surprises. While there are some places we won’t rush back to, such as Moscow, there are many we would like to see again: the Adriatic Coast for example, and Buenos Aires, as well as places we missed like Chile, Northern Brazil and other parts of Argentina. We would also like to return to New Zealand. But there are also many places that we haven’t been to that we would like to see. Ireland is near the top of our list.

During our travels, we often extolled the benefits of House Exchanges. Hopefully we can get back to doing that, fitting them in between work. But we also hope that not too far in the distance, we can be like the Homelink Members whose listing reads, ready to go anywhere, anytime! That’s our next travel goal for the future.


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