The conference ended on Wednesday afternoon. There was a bit of a mess as nearly 300 of us dispersed, mostly back to Cusco. Some were going straight to the airport and others to various hotels in the area. Susan and I had booked a room at the Tierra Viva hotel just up the road from the Plaza de Armas. It was the spendiest place we had booked, but it turned out to be well worth it.
It's always interesting to return to a place you've been to before when travelling. Coming back to Cusco was a bit like coming home. Even though we'd only been there a day the week before, it felt familiar and comfortable. We knew this place.
We explored a bit more in the afternoon, finding a huge market. We understood we wouldn't get lunch on our trip the next day, so we prowled the aisles in the market looking for things to buy. There was an aisle or two dedicated to shops making fresh fruit drinks. They had clear plastic bins of papaya, mango, banana, pineapple and more and blenders. Then there was an area with vendors selling loads of nuts and dried fruits - peanuts, almonds, pecans bigger than your thumb. Then there were vendors with huge barrels of olives. There was a bread aisle, a dog and cat food aisle, and joy! a cheese aisle! A woman offered us a slice from a round of cheese. I immediately bought the rest of the round. Yum! With that, some crackers, peanuts, and almonds, we decided we were set.
On the way back we stopped for dinner at a fun little restaurant. There was a tiny balcony on it with just enough space for a small table and two chairs. I had a little fear that the balcony would fall of the face of the building, but it didn't! We had a lovely meal of chicken and fries. While we were there I used the butter knife to saw our cheese into slices. We didn't have any other cutting implements, so it was the butter knife or nothing!
Breakfast at the Tierra Viva the next morning was stunning. Hot coffee, tea, and milk, four kinds of fresh juice, loads of fruit, three kinds of yogurt and various cereal and granola, olives, plates of cheese and ham, a big basket of various kinds of breads, including croissants, a "chard pie," a cake-like bread, dishes of hot scrambled eggs, potatoes (or yucca), and sauteed mushrooms and onions. This was amazing compared to the "continental" breakfast we got at some hotels: two pieces of bread, butter and jam. Eggs if you were lucky.
We were picked up from our hotel about 10am and bused back through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo to the train station. This is a sight-seeing train with windows in the ceiling too. We wound around next to a boisterous river and the landscape quickly changed from farm land to almost tropical.
|Quakers on a train.|
|Some of the countryside on our way...farmland at this point.|
|I loved looking up through the ceiling and seeing these mountains towering over us. I took a lot of pictures of this.|
|And the river we followed along. It turned out that we could see this river and the train from up at Machu Picchu!|
Aguas Calientes (which I think means more Hot Springs than Hot Water in this case) is pretty much a tourist town. Built by Peruvians for all the tourists coming through for Machu Picchu. There are loads of restaurants, shops of handicrafts, tons of hotels and hostels. It's also very small. You can walk from one side to the other, up and down, in probably half an hour. With about 80 of us there, we were running into Quakers everywhere we turned - which was really fun. The town goes from the river at the bottom straight up the side of a mountain to the hot springs partway up. There is another river pouring down the middle of the town with four bridges spanning it.
|Train tracks into town. The river we followed is right on the other side of the buildings on the left.|
|Bridges crossing the river through town.|
|The huge market in town.|
We had several hours to wander through the town, market, and eat dinner. It's the rainy season so it rained quite a bit and the weather was calling for rain on Friday (Machu Picchu day!) as well. The plan is to be up at 5 for breakfast and head for Machu Picchu at 6:20.
|Garbage cans! They tip over so the trash can be collected easily .|
|Statue in the town center.|
|Crazy wild river!|
|An actual French Bakery, run by an actual French guy from France. He was a really nice guy and the food was beautiful and tasty. I have no idea what brought him around the world to this funny spot to open a French bakery!|
|We had dinner at the restaurant down there on the other side of the tracks, overlooking the river.|
|Hairless mommy dog and her hairless puppies!|