05.02.2014 - 05.02.2014 15 °C
We envisioned the train system in South America to be far more efficient than what we have seen so far, thus we were fairly disappointed thru out the trip not to be able to ride on a single one, and once we came across this service, we figured it might be our only chance to ride one and bought the expensive tourist tickets right away, and really wanted to get out of hopeless Puno at once honestly.
We wake up early to catch our Andean Explorer Train from Puno to Cusco at 8:00 AM, a 10 hour scenic journey thru the Andean valleys to the mythical Inca capital.
Only the "select" 36 passengers board the train that consists of a diesel locomotive, a baggage car, a services car, a dining/lounge car and a bar/observation car, definitely not a caboose. Both public dining and bar cars are dressed in a dark wood panelling, furnished with plush lounge chairs and chic tables with classic table lights. Each and every single passenger is made to believe they are not only special, but they are also traveling back in time thru the decor reminiscent of the colonial times of a different continent.
As the train pulls out of the station slowly, steam horn blows thru the streets, stopping traffic, local kids waving goodbye.
Scenery is beautiful as numerous high volcanic mountains adorn the north horizon, but they are far away, we are still on the fertile plateaus.
In the town of Juliaca, the train cruises thru the local street/train tracks market interrupting the commerce for a few minutes, and as it goes thru, vendors attend back to their stalls set up in-between and around the tracks.
At 10:30, mandatory music and dance show takes place in the bar car, and the bait to gather passengers is delicious pisco sour cocktail.
Later around noon, a 3 course lunch of local delicacies like "power-food" kinua tabbouleh, tasty trout and panna cotta are served accompanied by Cusquena beer.
For desert, passengers are summoned to the bar car again, this time for a "fashion show", a version of airplane duty free cart, so we fake post lunch naps at our dining car seats.
At a high mountain pass, the train stops, what we assume is a track change, but it turns out, it's swapping of crews between the Cusco bound and Puno bound Andean Explorer trains. This short break is a perfect opportunity for locals to push more alpaca wool gear to passengers at the observation car.
Now in-between the mountains, the train plays hide an seek with the river, as they zig zag each other every couple of miles, going over many stone and steel bridges, the road on the other hand, is just a bystander as the train has the right of way.
As we enter Cusco proper, the train slows down and cruises thru the streets for almost an hour, no wonder, the town extends far in to the valley.
At the Cusco station, content with the train experience and slightly sad to be leaving, we disembark the train and head to the "rapido" minibus stop for the town of Calca. We take the shotgun on the minibus to enjoy the scenery as the minibus enters the winding roads that lead to the unique Sacred Valley of the Incas, but due to a car accident we are delayed and miss the sunlight, all we could see are high beams.
In Calca, we take a moto taxi and get to our Sacred Valley sojourn, it's the Vamoss Travel HQ, where we are greeted with plain yogurt! bean dish! rice pudding! And for the first time in about 70 days, we have a lovely conversation in Turkish, out of all places in the Sacred Valley of the Inca's.