Sunday, August 16, 2015

From bed to bed

So I missed Ollantaytambo, stuck at this pretty hotel recovering from a horrible night when I wanted to be anywhere else other than inside my own body. I had received an evening consultation from guides Eddie and Danny with their official first aid kit, dispensing antibiotics and advice, which helped - but I was also grateful to Kristina, one of the three doctors in the group (plus a nurse, so actually, it would have been a waste not to get sick) who gave me some much-needed anti-nausea meds. Three of us became ill, but we weren't able to pin the cause down to anything definite. Sick happens, I guess (the original form of that saying would be equally accurate...)

But I had been to the town before, climbed up the hillside to the archaeological site, seen those cunningly fitted-together huge blocks of granite, already marvelled at how they had been brought from the quarry on the opposite side of the valley, across the river. There are grain stores too, painstakingly built on another hillside, benefiting from the dry atmosphere.
The first event of the day, for me then, was the train ride to Aguas Calientes - not, sadly, on the fancy Hiram Bingham train, just a public service; but it was good, comfortable, with windows that opened, roof lights that showed the towering peaks overhead, and a trolley pushed by neatly-uniformed attendants dispensing complimentary refreshments just like on a plane. We were parallel to the Inca Trail for a while, which was kind of exciting for me, and I recognised the site where we had spent our first night. Then it curved away into another valley and we plunged deep into the mountains, getting junglier by the kilometre, leaving the farms and little settlements behind.

Aguas Calientes is a bit ramshackle, totally focused on tourism and the efficient movement of thousands of people every day to and from Machu Picchu, half an hour by bus up a zigzag road. It's all market stalls, snack shops and bars, but it has a vibe of its own, though Eddie was disparaging. "Twenty minutes and you've seen it!"
Assuredly much nicer was the Inkaterra Resort Hotel we stayed at. Just up from the busy railway station - the dining room is situated between the tracks, which is a diverting novelty - it's a collection of colonial casitas scattered over a hillside and surrounded by lush and very well maintained cloud jungle gardens, full of ferns and orchids. I took an eco tour with cheerful Carmen, who pointed out colourful birds, petroglyphs and plants, and hustled us to the tea plantation house when it began to rain, soaking those in the group who'd gone up to MP for a pre-visit.

I really liked my airy room with its views over terracotta pantiles to the jungly cliffs and peaks, especially when I discovered yet another hot water bottle in my bed after dinner - but as usual there wasn't enough time to appreciate it. Tomorrow we keen types are getting an early start: alarms set for 5am.

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