April 30, 2018 – Urubamba to Aguas Calientes, Peru
It was another early start this morning. We had to be ready to leave the hotel at 7:30 which meant having breakfast at 6:30 which gave plenty of time to go back to the room and do some last minute packing. A bus, a really luxurious one, picked us up and took us to the train station. First, we returned to where we were yesterday to see if anyone had found Coleen’s camera. She had left it at the coffee counter when she got coffee yesterday. Unfortunately no one had reported finding it.
There are 2 trains which go to Machu Picchu. One is the deluxe train (colored green) which we did not take. The other is the regular train (colored blue) which we did take. For many years PeruRail only ran the blue train. It not only takes people to Machu Picchu, but it serves the local people who live along the track. They complained that the fares were too high and that another train was needed. PeruRail obliged by introducing the green train with higher fares. This made the blue train seem cheap by comparison, and the locals stopped complaining!
The train ride to Aguas Calientes is a beautiful one. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the train and seated facing the back of the train. The seats are assigned which is nice since you don’t have to fight for a seat. We stopped at the station near the top where those who wanted to hike the last bit of the trail got off. It would take them 5 or 6 hours, but you wouldn’t catch me doing it since it looked like the trail went straight up.
When we arrived, Cheo had made arrangements for the hotel to pick up our luggage so that we didn’t have to schlep it around. Since our rooms were not ready at 9:30 in the morning, we walked to the Butterfly Garden and the Machu Picchu Museum/Botanical Garden. It was a nice walk of about 40 minutes to the museum, and we stopped on the way to visit the Butterfly Garden. It was a nice tour as one of the attendants told us about their effort to save butterfly species. There are about 400+ varieties of butterflies in Peru and over 400 moth species. In honor of our visit, one butterfly was selected to be released into the wild. Coleen was chosen to release it. Since they are releasing butterflies into the wild anyway, it is a nice gesture to have someone in each group release one.
From there we went on to the Museum and Botanical Garden. The Museum is a nice small one and is very well done. It presents a history of Machu Picchu in an understandable manner. The Gardens had lots of orchids in it, but there was only one blooming. This is just the wrong season. There were some beautiful ferns and lichens though.
I was unprepared for all the greenery here. I thought since this is the equivalent of October at home and since we are in the mountains that it would be chilly at best and downright cold at worst. It was somewhere around 80 today and lots of sunshine.
When we returned to town, we had lunch at a really good restaurant. I had alpaca in a pepper sauce with fettucine Alfredo. It was excellent. We all liked the napkins so much that the waiter called his friend who sold them and had him bring some to the restaurant. We bought all that he brought which was 35.
While we were eating some of the four day hikers and some of the day hikers made it to town. We were sitting where we could see them end their hike. Most of them made it before it began to rain, but some of them who didn’t do so were varying degrees of wet depending on what they had to protect them from the rain. By the time we left the restaurant, it had stopped raining and cleared off. The walk to the hotel was uphill, and I was puffing by the time we got here. Some of the folks were going to the hot springs and soak, but I elected to stay here in the hotel and rest – translated read for a few minutes, take a nap and write this post.
I passed on the hot springs because it was “rotten egg water” although those who went said it wasn’t too bad. They did say that the water was “murky” so I’m not sure I would have wanted to get in it. Instead I looked at some of the carvings which are scattered through the town. I stayed close to the hotel, but there were 10 or so in that area. They each represent some aspect of Inca culture.
Tonight we went to another great place for dinner. I wasn’t very hungry since I had had a big lunch so I ordered a bowl of chicken noodle soup with spinach, carrots and broccoli in it. Well, forget small portions. I had enough soup to feed an army. I must say though that it was some of the best chicken soup I have ever had. The broth was probably the best that I have ever tasted. There were huge chunks of chicken, and they had used those little rice noodles. Again, everyone’s order looked better than the next one. They certainly have mastered the art of presentation as well as good cooking here in Peru.
We had a leisurely walk back to the hotel, and everyone called it a night. We don’t have such an early start in the morning as we don’t have to be ready to leave the hotel until 8.
Machupicchu (official name, from Quenchua Machu Pikchu machu old, old person, pikchu pyramid; mountain; or prominence with a broad base that ends in sharp peaks "old peak") or Machupicchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes (Spanish agua water, caliente hot, warm, "hot waters" or "hot springs"), is a location in Peru situated in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province. It is the seat of the Machupicchu District. Machupicchu lies at the Vilcanota River. It is the closest access point to the historical site of Machu Picchu which is 3.7 miles away or about a 1.5 hours walk. There are many hotels and restaurants for tourists, as well as natural hot baths which gave the town its colloquial Spanish name. The baths were destroyed by floods several years ago but have been rebuilt.
Settled by a few farm families in 1901, the tiny settlement was transformed into a busy railway worker's camp called Maquinachayoq (possibly from Quechua makina (a borrowing from Spanish máquina) machine/locomotive, train, -cha, -yuq suffixes, "the one with a little machine, locomotive or train", Makinachayuq) during the construction of the railroad through there in the late 1920s. The town was the central hub for worker lodging and their equipment until the railway was completed in 1931.
Machupicchu serves as a terminal for the PeruRail and Inca Rail passenger train service from Cusco. Trains serve locals and tourists arriving from Cusco and Ollantaytambo to visit Machu Picchu. A sheltered souvenir market is adjacent to the train station. Avenue Pachacutec is the main and only thoroughfare of the town, connecting the baths to the town's main square.
The Central Machupicchu Hydroelectric Plant is nearby at the Urubamba River. It generates about 90 MW for the regions of Cusco, Puno, and Apurímac. It was first constructed between 1958 and 1965 and expanded between 1981 and 1985. The plant was damaged by a landslide on 28 February 1998 and ceased operations until 13 July 2001.
Welcome to the world of the butterflies, reads the sign at the entrance of Wasi Pillpi. The name means Butterfly House in Quechua, and its location within the high-altitude jungle refuge known as Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary means it can make good on its name. The sanctuary boasts more than a hundred distinct, endemic butterfly species. (In fact, probably the only sights in the sanctuary which outnumber the sanctuary are orchids and backpackers.) A stop at the Butterfly House will teach you a little more about the biodiverse world in which the ruins of Machu Picchu are located. During your visit, you’ll learn about the sanctuary’s butterfly varieties, many of which are impressively camouflaged to blend in with certain local plants. You’ll also learn about the world of butterflies, passing through the developmental stages of egg to larva to pupa to butterfly. Although a little dilapidated, that only lends this butterfly farm and museum additional charm. It’s run by Aguas Calientes local Leonardo Serrano Gutierrez, who counts on the help of local volunteers as well. It’s more of a local conservation project dedicated to studying local butterfly species than a glossy tourist operation. The team not only offer guided visits, they also dedicate their time to increasing local butterfly populations through a reproduction-and-release program.