Exploring Aguascalientes, Peru
We enjoyed a nice, somewhat lazy morning since we didn’t have to board the train to Ollantaytambo from Aguascalientes until 11 am. We had breakfast at our hostel, Varoyac, and then set off to wander around Aguascalientes.
We enjoyed walking up and down the main road, wandering in and out of shops, ending in the main square were we went inside the church. Holy cow, there was so much decoration and ornamentation I had to blink a couple times when I walked inside.
After the main square we wandered the big market of artisanal goods you have to walk through upon leaving the train station (where mom bought herself a keychain llama that I already bought her previously as a gift sitting now in BA…) until settling down for a pizza at a cute restaurant off the main road to wait until our train.
Train from Aguascalientes to Ollantaytambo
We were all curious getting on board the train to Ollantaytambo as to what to expect. On the way to Aguascalientes we had been on the Expedition train, the ‘lowest’ economy train, from which none of us had any complaints. However on the return trip we were on the Vista Dome, the highest class train (happened to be the only one with tickets) and at first glance the only difference was bigger windows and our coffee and snacks were served in porcelain cups and plates.
Little did we know we were in for a big treat. About 20 minutes outside of Ollantaytambo the train came to a complete stop and out of the bathroom emerged a ‘clown-like’ dressed fox creature that walked up and down the aisles making a loud cooing/purring sounds while looking at the passengers. Thanks to the intercom we were informed that creature was in fact an Andean fox legend that loved to dance to folklore music and sure enough immediately after the classic Peruvian pipe music came on the the fox danced up and down the aisles, pulling women up to twirl and dance with (mom was one of them!).
Tears in all of our eyes from laughing we now understand what this higher class train was all about, and couldn’t stop laughing and giggling until mom said, “did they just say fashion show?”
Of course our high class train perks were not over and two of train attendants now marched up and down the aisles sporting the baby alpaca fur clothing they were selling on the train. This lasted about 15 minutes… Our laughter lasted until the end of the day.
Taxi from Ollantaytambo to Cusco – The Pisac Market
Getting off the train we were released into a feeding frenzy of drivers trying to get us to choose for the 2 hour drive back to Cusco. For the four of us, prices started at 100 Peruvian Soles and we ended with the driver willing to take 70. We choose extremely well as he was more like a tour guide than a driver, pointing out the floating hotel on the rocks just outside of Ollantaytambo, telling us about the different ruins as we passed them, and taking us to a little artisanal alpaca clothing seller in Pisac. Unsure what exactly we were doing our driver pulled up to a little open square in between some houses and buildings. The walls lined with tables full of alpaca scarves, sweaters, socks, you name it. In the middle under a little roof was a set up of different colored yarns sitting in different baskets of herbs.
Thinking we were just there to buy sweaters we were a little confused when our driver told us sit, and young girl dressed in the traditional cholita outfit came out and started to tell us in scripted english how they turn the alpaca wool into the threads of different colors in order to make sweaters. The girl was hilarious consistently making sarcastic and hilarious comments, giving a shy smile when we laughed at her jokes.
After her performance they dressed us in the traditional outfits and we were allowed to wander the tables trying on and browsing different sweaters and scarves. We ended up leaving all with new sweaters and scarves, one of the women claiming to have made the one dad bought.
Continuing to Cusco
The unfortunate part of it all was about half way thru our time in the village I started to get achy, hot flashes, an upset stomach, and nausea… Immediately I knew I was probably in for a long day.
Back in the car I tried my best to close my eyes and ignore my nauseous stomach, but wasn’t quite able to make it to the Bolivia Hop office, the bus company we were using to get from Cusco to La Paz, without getting sick. Thankfully the office was located right next to a hostel called The Point and an extremely nice man working there from the states got me a bed where I was able to lay down and sleep.
A Short Exploration of Cusco, Peru
A couple hours later I attempted to walk around Cusco a bit and grab dinner with the family. Cusco was a beautiful city, enormous churches surrounding the huge main square and cobblestone walkways leading in.
We choose an adorable Italian place, La Cantina. More of a wine shop than a restaurant they specialized in pizza, bruschetta, and plates of meats and cheeses to enjoy with their specialty Italian wines. We choose a Chianti off the wall which was delicious (I had one teeny sip that probably wasn’t the best idea). Unfortunately I had to leave dinner early because I didn’t feel well, but word from the fam was the pizza was delicious, highly recommend La Cantina!
Catching the Bolivia Hop Bus to overnight to Puno, Peru
At 10 pm we loaded up on the Bolivia Hop bus to start our journey to Puno, Peru where we would stop for a tour of the floating islands and then continue into Copacabana, Bolivia. Getting on that bus was a hazy memory as I was fighting nausea and just trying to get on in one piece, not sure if I would have made it without the help of my family. The loading of the bus was far from stress free, but funnily enough we seemed to get some sort of special treatment because we were a traveling family of four; front row seats, first on the bus etc. However those front row seats seemed to be a bit more troublesome than helpful as the glare of the streetlights, driver’s music, and continual wafting of the smell of them chewing coca leaves were constant. Everyone got about 1 to 3 hours of sleep and we were all quite pleased to get off the bus when we arrived in Puno at 5:30 the next morning.
Read on to discover the floating islands of Puno and the BEST place we stayed while in South America.