|On Tuesday morning we set out on foot about 8 am to the other side of town where there is an old fortress and barracks up on the mountain side. It was sunny and nice outside, but not too hot, a great day for a climb! We felt like mountain goats as we made our way up, pausing occasionally to catch a breath. The fortress ruins were well worth the effort though, and the view was also spectacular!
After our excursion we wandered the narrow streets of the town for awhile. Peeking into a courtyard where the usual tourist stuff was for sale, we saw two connecting rooms full of... guinea pigs! Called "Cuy" in Peru, they are considered a delicacy. Doug and I, however, don't plan to eat any. The little guys are just too cute!
We ate an early lunch at a small place looking out on the main town square. So far we haven't been too impressed by the food here. Last night's dinner was pretty bad and our lunch today was just so-so.
Time to check out of our hotel and board the train for Aqua Calliente! Since the streets are muddy and we brought our roller suitcases, a kid at the hotel goes and fetches us a "tuk tuk". Not really sure if that's what they call them here, but they are a little golf cart sized vehicle perfect for the narrow streets. In a few minutes we arrived at the train station. Being a bit early we ducked into a little cafe at the station and had hot lattes and carrot cake.
The train turned out to be pretty nice. Doug had purchased tickets on the Vistadome, which is a step up from the basic backpacker's train and the ones the locals take. The seats face each other with a table in between, decorated with Peruvian table runners. Once we got going they served complimentary drinks and a snack. Our seat mates were a couple from Medellin, Columbia and fortunately spoke a little English. It is only about an hour and a half to Aqua Calliente, which is the little town that is directly below Machu Picchu. (Apparently the town's official name is Machu Picchu, but nobody calls it that because then it would be confused with the ruins of the same name. Aqua Calliente literally means "hot water" and got that name because of nearby hot springs.)
Upon arrival we were met by a porter from our hotel, Tierra Viva Machu Picchu, who put our luggage on a hand cart and walked with us the couple of blocks to the hotel. This hotel seems brand new, and is more than double the price of our little place in Ollantaytambo. It's a really nice room, but we won't be spending too much time there, since we leave early for Machu Picchu.
That night we wandered the little town, finding the main plaza which every town seems to have. Doug did some online research and found a popular restaurant to try. Luckily we went early because they were almost booked for the night. We tried their set-price menu which included soup, a main course, and dessert. The portions were huge and we pretty much rolled out of there!
On our way back through the plaza we could hear some chanting nearby, and watched as hundreds of people marched into and around the plaza. We had no idea what it was about, but it wasn't violent. They stayed there for around 15 minutes and then left. Later I asked at the hotel if they knew what it was about. They said it had something to do with a second bus company wanting to compete with the locally owned buses that take everyone to Machu Picchu. The protesters were local townspeople trying to preserve a major source of income for the town.