Andean Explorations – 16: To the Sacred Valley

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

March ahead, traveler! (copied from my journal, edited ofcourse, but its verbose and long)

After a lovely rendezvous with Puno and Lake Titicaca, I am ready to go to the next region of Peru – the Sacred Valley. The island tour ended, I bid goodbyes to my fellow travelers and headed straight to the bus station from where I am writing this. I just got overnight bus tickets to Cusco, the capital city of the Incas for cheap S/.18 (thanks to the relentless bargaining by the Israeli girls to whom I outsourced purchasing). I have a number of options to kill time now – sit here and write my journal and watch local people haul their baggage and wipe the running noses of their kids, or option 2 – go back to the noisy town and have some desserts. I am picking the later one.
– – –

It was a night of horrible driving, noisy music that turned itself ON suddenly in the middle of the night and a number of unscheduled stops at little hamlets. No wonder the tickets were so cheap. The last time the speakers blared out unbearable ear tearing music (seriously, I would prefer Himmesh Reshamiya) was at 3 am, and I woke up with a jerk and a sore foot (My neighbor told me that I was kicking the speaker in my sleep), ah, whatever.

Peruvian society’s clear divide between the native (Indians) and the mix-Europeans was clear to me now more than ever… [snipped, will be a different post]

The bus reached Cusco early in the morning, at about 4:30 am. I woke up from sleep more exhausted than I was ever before (and that seldom happens), tossed a S/. 0.50 to the bathroom guard and splashed cold water on my face. I had decided earlier that I won’t stop in Cusco, but the convenience and ease was so tempting that I almost gave in to my lazy urges. Fortunately the lazyness was tossed away with the flush of the toilet (the paper was too rough) and I barged out of the bus terminal full of enthusiasm. Amazing how five minutes in a bathroom can completely transform you.

Sleep and girls: (Should be ‘No sleep and Yes girls’): I hugged goodbyes to my fellow travelers (4 girls – IL, IL, US, US) and they smelled too much like girls in the morning (you know, the typical smell of a girl when they don’t use deodorants). I took a taxi (S/. 3) to a local bus stop where a collectivo to Ollantaytambo (S/.10) was waiting. Ollantaytambo… tongue twister? try this – Oh-lan-tay-tambo (ओलान्तेताम्बो). I was pushed on the back seat with two British women who for some reason didn’t want to talk to me (or to each other), ah well, I could use some sleep, I thought. As a side thought I also noticed that I am continuously stuck with women travelers since last night. No sooner than the vehicle hit the road, I saw that there was no sleep written in my destiny that night. Almost like the time you stay up all night to study, only that this was more exciting and more cruel and filled with girls.

Olantaytambo was a sleepy little town and all it had was a town center (Plaza de Armas) and maybe four other large streets. I wanted to stay in this silent town for the night and head over to Machu Picchu that night but, but, there were issues. First, I couldn’t find a hostel to stay – the one I found was too damn expensive and there was nobody at the reception at the other place (I waited 20 minutes, used the men’s room and escaped). The third hotel simply turned me away – I guess my drowsy eyes, big backpack and a overall broke backpacker look gave it away. Second, there were no more hostels available (I think this point is same as First but I am too tired to think). Third, I was getting worried and had nightmares (shall we call them day dreams) of getting stuck in a village with limited money and no bank machine.

Good! (Thats what I say when situations are hopeless). So I need to change my plans at the last minute. I can’t think because I am hungry. I need food.

I found food. First customer, at 6:30 am they haven’t even finished sweeping the floor. After a neat breakfast, I started to look at my options. Too bad I couldn’t speak Spanish because the locals would have given me information that was better than the guidebook.

[Thought process filled with various permutations, combinations and estimations skipped.] I have decided to go to Aguas Calientes, the base town of Machu Picchu, rightaway. The next train is at 8:20. Cool, I have a new saying… ‘where there is a will, there is a way train.’

This prompts me to write, which I will, about the scam of Machu Picchu. I board the train and reach, hours later, to the small but outrageously touristic town of Aguas Calientes. I can see forbidding mountains covered with thick forest shadowed by an impenetrable fog even at 10:30 am. Machu Picchu is hidden somewhere in this jungle jumble. It’s so nice to see lush greenery after spending all these days in mostly barren soils.

I find a cheap single room (S/. 15), take a warm shower and fall asleep within seconds. My plans have changed so much since today morning that I have to think the rest of my journey over.

– – –
Welcome to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Although I went to Machu Picchu the very next day, I will blog about it at the end since it is sortof a climax and I want to keep it so 🙂 I hope the rant wasn’t too long.

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery