Sunday, 10 February 2013

The best laid plans....

...go awry.

Yesterday as we descended Machu Picchu rain set in. Hardly surprising. This is the wet season and the famous Inca Trail is closed in February for that reason. The rain continued through the night and into the next day. Nothing torrential but very steady.

Unbeknown to us whatever rain was falling elsewhere in the region, it was sufficient to cause several landslides on the rail line between Aguas Caliente and Poyo. The stations at those towns service respectively Machu Picchu and Cusco City. We've been told many times that the only way to access/depart Machu Picchu is by the train (apart from the closed Inca Trail, I presume).

We were due to depart at 5.50pm on the Hiram Bingham Orient Express, a luxury train serving a five course dinner on the three and half hours trip to Poyo for our next stop, Cusco City. Our luggage was already at our hotel in Cusco City and we were in possession of only overnight bags for our two days stay at Machu Picchu.

It was a free afternoon for our group of twenty and we were dispersed around Aguas Caliente in the various markets and cafes as well as in our Machu Picchu hotel.

Around 2pm word started to spread about the landslides and then the news that Hiram Bingham Orient Express trip into Aguas Caliente would not operate meaning it was not available for our booked return journey. Hundreds of other tourists were also stranded because the other services were also disrupted.

Our Tour Director did a fabulous job of organising an alternative train to Olantaytambo, the next stop up the line and for a bus to take us from there into Cusco City. Sure, this meant missing out on the Orient Express train experience but at least it kept us on track with our tour. All this simplifies the owrk the Director had to due, not the least rounding up 20 straggling tourists spread across the township in pouring rain, all of us unaware of the unfolding drama.

The train trip had the atmosphere of an evacuation, which in a way it was. We travelled by Peru Rail which provides one of the standard services on the line. The two carriage attendants, one male, one female, have to perform a variety of tasks. Apart from checking passengers onto the carriage, they also serve a simple snack, airline style, serve drinks, model stylish fashions up and down the carriage to the applause of the passengers before trawling a trolley along the carriage attempting to sell said fashions to the passengers.

As if that wasn't enough the male attendant has to don an elaborate costume and perform a series of native style dances including with a couple of female passengers drawn at random. I didn't catch the symbolism of this costumed performance but it certainly enlivened proceedings.

Here is an image;

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