After a couple days in Cusco, it was time to move on. Christy and I took a shared taxi out of town to a place called Ollantaytambo. This was where we would hop on the train and head to Aguas Calientes, our next stop and the town to stay in if you’re going to Machu Picchu. The drive to Ollantaytambo was impressive. I had no idea Peru was full of rolling hills. And the wildflowers! Who knew there would be so many wildflowers? Several times, I was tempted to ask the shuttle driver to pull to the side of the road so I could run in the fields, singing The Sound of Music soundtrack. I held back though.
The shuttle driver plugged his flash drive into the van’s stereo system, and we found ourselves singing along to 80’s music. Most notably, Bon Jovi and Belinda Carlisle. Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Ooh, heaven is a place on Earth. And I must agree. The rolling fields did seem a bit like heaven.
When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we were greeted by rain. We donned the ponchos and followed a lady waiting at the train station through a maze of shops in the outdoor craft market and up several streets to our hostel. And when I say up, I do mean up. By the time we arrived at the hostel I was pretty sure I’d just completed a hike. The roads in that city are STEEP. They are also full of holes (at least during our time there). The holes were made by construction crews. They seemed to be redoing the underground pipes. One can only hope such work improves Aguas Calientes. After spending a few hours there, we were inclined to refer to the whole place as a “hole.”
We stayed at the Pirwa Bed and Breakfast. I do NOT recommend the place. Granted, from what I’ve heard, I’m not sure any hostel in that town is worth a recommendation. Perhaps the $300 a night hotel near the river would be suitable. Too bad I don’t care to spend $300 a night. It was clean — I’ll give it that. But everything was musty and moldy, the ventilation was terrible, the service was mediocre, and the noise was atrocious. The breakfast, however, was actually pretty good. So at least there was that.
After feeling thoroughly depressed about our move from the super cute Mallqui Hostal in Cusco to this place, we decided we obviously needed to get out and explore. We were determined to find the bright side. And a bright side there was. We found a lovely restaurant near the train station that served scrumptious vegetable soup and avocado salad, after which we wandered down to the river that runs through town, the Urubamba. The Urubamba river is quite breathtaking. And we spent the better part of the evening singing, dancing and taking pictures.
As the day came to a close, we were excited to return to our hostel in anticipation of Machu Picchu in the morning. Yes! Machu Picchu — sort of the whole point of the trip! We were ecstatic, moldy room and all.