Saturday, November 7, 2009

Peru: Last Day at Aguas Calientes

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we should have spent only one night at Aguas Calientes and taken the late train back to Cuzco from Machu Picchu instead of staying the second night. We scheduled two nights because we wanted to spend every minute of the second day at Machu Picchu and not have to worry about catching the train. And that's what we did. However, trains only return to Cuzco in the afternoons so we were stuck in Aguas Calientes for another day. As I noted before, there is really nothing in Aguas Calientes that anyone needs to see. Tickets for Machu Picchu and the bus are expensive and we had explored the site fairly extensively already so we didn't return for the third day. Also, Dan woke up a little bit sick and wasn't up for too much adventure.

Caleb and a puma in the main plaza in Aguas Calientes

What we ended up doing was walking along the river walk down to the site museum that the guidebooks all recommend. It is near the bridge that crosses the river along the bus road and is within walking distance of town. Unfortunately, the museum was inexplicably closed during hours they were supposed to be open. Since service all over Aguas Calientes was just as poor, this didn't surprise us.

Urubamba river from Aguas Calientes

flowers along the river walk

While we were down near the bridge, we walked over to a small butterfly enclosure and the one lady working there gave us a nice tour. The whole thing only took 10 minutes, so it's not something that you should go out of your way to do, but it was fun for Caleb.

Caleb holding a caterpillar

lady at the butterfly enclosure showing us one of the butterflies

From there we crossed over to the other side of the bus road and followed the railroad tracks and some ambiguous signs through the jungle towards a botanical gardens and waterfalls (cataratas). The small University botanical garden was not too far up the track and it was a guided tour that lasted about 15 minutes and cost about $3 each, then you can stay and explore on your own. It was very nice. They had many varieties of orchids and other plants and Dan took a lot of photos. It would have been smart to have put some bug spray on as we were getting lots of bites here.

We did not continue on to the waterfall as Dan wasn't up to it. We walked back to town, got some snacks at a bodega, sat on benches along the river and ate lunch.

After lunch we walked around the small town a bit and did some shopping. The only thing we bought was a piece of Machu Picchu serpentine rock that was sphere shaped and polished that Dan was able to get a good price for. In general, Aguas Calientes is NOT a good place for shopping. The quality of the products is poor and I saw a lot of Chinese import stuff they were trying to pass off as Peruvian and it was all overpriced. Most of the weavings are made from poor quality acrylic yarn with synthetic dyes instead of the beautiful, hand-dyed sheep wool and alpaca weavings you can find elsewhere. There's a market full of stalls by the train station, but I don't recommend it for anything except killing time. I think it is the way it is because they tend to sell things to tourist who are doing a whirlwind South American tour and are only in Peru for a couple of days just to see Machu Picchu.

I'll be doing a post on shopping in Peru soon, so check back.

We caught our train after having to rush back to the hotel for our bags since they didn't deliver them to the train station as promised (we sort of expected that) and made an early evening journey back to Cuzco to our nice hotel there.

Our last excursion in Peru was a trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and I'll be writing about that soon too.

Copyright 2009 text and photos. All rights reserved.

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