Monday, September 11, 2006


September 11, 2006   Monday
Aguas Calientes, Peru

Had to check out of our hotel by 9:00 a.m., but then we hung out most of the day on their second floor playing with the computers and internet.  Visited one of the dozen or so internet cafes and had the camera memory disk copied onto a jump drive (thumb drive).  Hopefully there will be a small miracle and we will figure out a way to get the photos of the Amazon Jungle off this camera later.  The funniest sign we saw at an internet café offering this service was “All your memory into CD burnt.”  We didn’t want a CD, but they were also set-up to just put it all onto our jump drive.  Took 5 minutes and cost only 10 soles.

Neither of us felt like going back up to the Machu Picchu site again.  Contrary to the majority of opinions, one full day at Machu Picchu (1/2 day with a guide and ½ day alone) is plenty.  Unless, of course, you are a little nuts and also want to climb Huayna Picchu.  Definitely need a second day to do that.

The excitement of the day at Aguas Calientes was caused by a tourist throwing bread into the town square fountain under the Inca statue.  Several dozen people clustered around the fountain for hours, removing the rainbow trout because now the water was “dirty.”  Didn’t seem to us that those bread pieces would really hurt those fish, but the local people were all bent out of shape and felt that they needed to save the fish from the contamination of that bread.  So a couple of them hiked up their pants legs and climbed into the cold water of the fountain.  They captured all the fish by hand and transferred them to clean water in buckets, and started emptying the fountain to clean it.  That is when we sort of lost interest and drifted away.  Didn’t find anything else going on to entertain us, so we went back to the hotel and played on their computer.

It was interesting watching how small children are cared for in that little town.  Little kids ages 1-5 are left with an older sister or cousin, usually about age 8.  She handles that responsibility quite well, while still being young enough to enjoy also playing with the younger kids.  We saw no fighting or squabbling like you would have in the US with kids that age.  And the kids seem to be quite safe because they are playing in the town square all day.  The entire town is pedestrian only, except for the main river road where the buses run from the train station up and down Machu Picchu.  These people have a pretty good life; very slow-paced and no crime.

We ate another Peruvian pizza, cooked in one of their small wood-burning ovens.  Every single restaurant or café in Aguas Calientes sells pizza.  They also sell the “Tourista.”  For 10-15-20 soles, you get either an appetizer, salad or soup, a main course with side veggies, and a beverage.  There is always a large selection of each.  All this for only $3-$4 US.  “Menu” here does mean a menu; a menu is called a carte.  “Menu” means special of the day and always includes 3 courses at a very cheap price.  The food is nothing like we enjoyed in Cusco.  This is just typical tourist fare.

BTW, we have an old Lonely Planet travel guide printed in 1991.  Man!, have things changed around here in the past 15 years!!  Apparently there used to be a narrow path to the hot springs.  Now it is solid restaurants the entire way, with nice stone walkways and streets all the way up to the entrance to the hot springs.  In 1991 the hostel known as Gringo Bills (called a hostal down here) charged only $2.00 U.S. per night.  Gringo Bills is exactly the same, but today they charge $90 US per night.  We paid $100 for our extra night at the Towers hotel, and that included buffet breakfast and free internet.  Sure makes Gringo Bills seem overpriced.  We did not check the prices at any of the other dozen or so hostals in town.

Caught the 4:45 train back to Cusco, but got off in Ollantaytamba as we had been instructed by Lima Tours.  There was a nice bus waiting for us at the train depot.  There were 8 others on our train who were also Lima Tours customers.  The train would take another 3 hours to reach the depot in Cusco.  The bus had us back at our hotel in Cusco in 1 ½ hours.

The luggage we had left with the hotel when we left 4 days ago was already placed in our new room.  As soon as we arrived in our room we received a call from the front desk telling us that Lima Tours would pick us up at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow for our flight to Puerto Maldonado, so the hotel would provide us a wake-up call at 5:00 a.m.  We think this is the first time that a hotel told us what time we would wake up rather than allowing us to make that decision ourselves. 

The altitude of Cusco was immediately affecting Judy, so we opted for early bedtime and skip dinner.

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