Christmas Night Train: Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo (and a bus to Cuzco) *

After the madness of a 4 Day Inca Trail, seeing Machu Picchu and having Christmas Lunch together in a town called Aguas Calientes, it was time to head back to Cuzco. Some of the others had wanted to meet me in “Big Brother Bar” in Aguas Calientes but couldn’t find it. Hardly a surprise given that it doesn’t even bear it’s own name above the bar, and only is mentioned on a small flier I got given. 

So after going to the hot springs, it was a nice Christmas coincidence to find them all drinking in the next bar, Chayna Bar. They had some beer left over so I donated 4 Soles and grabbed a final glass of Cusquena as a toast and final salute to the Inca Trail.

A couple of night time shots of the pretty streets of Aguas Calientes after it turned dark. Christmas Day was going on forever and I couldn’t quite believe what I had bunged into one day. But we were all booked on a 7.24 pm train out of the murky waters of Aguas Calientes on route to Ollantaytambo (the town where it all began…). After that there would be another bus back to Cuzco.

However there was still 2 more problems to address before I could find a bed for the night. Firstly, my train ticket was for the day after, it had Boxing Day’s date printed on it, but the same time as tonight’s train. So I decided to walk alone to the train station, up a hill and through a still open market, I managed to get past the first ticket check no problem, the guy obviously didn’t check the date on my ticket.

Aguas Calientes station was packed. On Christmas Day. There was probably no space on the train, so I’d have to chance my arm to get on board. I had the added advantage that it was Christmas Night and people (even strict Peruvian security guards) would be more lenient.

I’m not sure why there was confusion over the tickets, most of the others had a ticket for 25th December, mine said 26th on it, as did Shie’s ticket (one of the Taiwanese ladies on the tour) and another Inca Trail comrade was Milka whose company had even forgot to print her a train ticket. After seeing Machu Picchu, nobody seemed bothered and I actually enjoyed having to use my brain and charm to get onto the train, which I knew I’d be fine.

I got to the train entrance and there was another ticket check. Elegant blue attired train conductors wore blue Santa hats and raised a smile when they saw my red Santa hat, and let me on immediately. However my seat for the following night was booked on Christmas night by a Canadian lady and so no sooner had I sat down than I got up again.

I was asked to leave the train because they noticed my ticket was for the wrong day. Luckily my Spanish was good enough for them to understand it wasn’t my mistake and they sent me to the ticket office and then to Coach B, where my Inca Trail colleagues were sat and they got me a seat, without further ado.

And I sat down and relaxed. It was nice to be leaving Machu Picchu on Christmas Day and with only good things to say about the excellent staff at Peru Rail, who could easily have made me spend Christmas Night in Aguas Calientes. That wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I started this hike with my buddies and planned to leave with them before my wandering heart would lead me out of Peru and into Ecuador.

More surprises and happiness were in store. As I sipped my water and looked through my photos and planned my trip onwards, a waiter arrived with well priced local beer, so I bought a bottle. As did Stan, my tent mate from the first night. From the Netherlands.

Christmas Pudding.

Then we were treated to free food and a drink. The food was grissini sticks and Christmas Cake, wrapped up. That in essence was the only Christmas present I was to open in 2010. And the cup of tea went down well as I chatted to Dave and Sheryl sat opposite.

The train took a wee while and was fairly slow which was a nice time to reflect. We exited the train at Ollantaytambo without an onward ticket for the supposed bus we would get to Cuzco. Nobody, myself included seemed worried in the slightest that we may not in fact find our bus in the darkening deep Peru skylight. This was all part of the epic madness attached to the Inca Trail.

It had been one hell of a day and it was a case of finding our bus from Ollantaytambo back to Cuzco, the nearest big city to Machu Picchu.

It didn’t take long to find, and neither Mirka or myself were actually booked on the bus, but we bunged our way in. Everyone seemed to find a seat as I drifted into iPod land (my iPod still having some battery despite not being charged in 5 days).

I don’t remember much about arrival back in Cuzco, but I got my bag off the bus, said farewell to my Inca Trail mates and checked into the Pariwana Hostel in Cuzco (I hadn’t even booked it – and it was Christmas Night). I had stayed there the night before the Inca Trail and had left my backpack there in a locker, but had forgotten to book in for two nights after the tour Luckily they had a bed in a cosy dorm. After a well needed shower and a quick sit down, I joined the hostel crew in the bar to party. It was just before midnight when I got my Christmas Night Cusquena beer and enjoyed mingling while the DJ pumped out great tunes. I met a girl from the Shetland Islands (her blue and white flag above). Merry Christmas Everyone. From Winaywayna to Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo to Cuzco, it had been a crazy crazy day…

On a day which seemed to last forever (felt like a week), I bunged the following in:

– 3 or 4 Inca settlements (Winaywayna, Intipunku, Intipata, Machu Picchu)

– a 6 km hike (Winaywayna to Machu Picchu)

– exploring Aguas Calientes

– 2 bus journeys

– 1 train journey

– Phone call all the way from Peru to Northern Ireland from a coinbox to wish Happy Christmas to family

– a dip in three baths in the hot springs

– Christmas breakfast in a campsite in the mountains

– Christmas dinner in a restaurant in Aguas Calientes

– Christmas drinks in 3 different bars in Aguas Calientes

– Christmas cake on a train

– Christmas party at night in the nearby city of Cuzco

(those amongst other things)

From Pueblo/Town – Aguas Calientes

To – CuzcoVia – Ollantaytambo

Restaurants and Bars – Over 40

Favourite Food – Roasted Guinea Pig with potatoes, rice and vegetables

Bars Visited – Chaski Restaurant, Big Brother Bar, Chayna Bar, Bar on The Train to Ollantaytambo, Pariwana Hostel Bar

Favourite Drink – Cuzquena (Cuzco’s own beer)

Favourite Cocktail – Peru Libre (Double Peruvian Rum and Coke)

Strange Currencies – Peruvian Soles

Transport Used – Train (to leave on Peru Rail to Ollantaytambo), Bus (from Ollantaytambo to Cuzco)

Nationalities Met – Peruvian, Spanish, Argentinian, Brazilian, Dutch, Taiwanese, Australian, Canadian, Scottish (Shetlands), English, Czech

Key Song:

ASH – FOLK SONG (“walking through this changing season, sorrow spreads it’s wings. we can’t keep a hold on time, just receive what it will bring”):

My Videos:








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