The famed "lost" city of Machu Picchu was always planned as a highlight of our trip to Peru and that was the way it turned out - in more ways than one. Our day started with a trip on the exclusive Hiram Bingham "Orient Express" train, which leaves from just outside Cusco.
Boarding the train at Poroy, just outside Cusco
The Club Car of the Hiram Bingham train
The Observation car at the rear of the train filled up with rowdy South American tourists
who sung, danced and drank their way through the countryside.
The train descended (strangely enough) through increasingly dramatic scenery. Although Machu Picchu is high in the Andes, Cusco is even higher, so we were actually going downhill, following a river.
The train stops at the ramshackle town of Puenta Ruinas and a bus takes you up a winding road to the entrance to Machu Picchu itself.
The ruins are fascinating but the setting makes the whole place just spectacular with breathtaking mountains all around and precipitous cliffs on all sides.
Farming terraces just outside the main city and retaining walls supporting the Sun Gate temple above
The accuracy with which the rocks are placed together is still an engineering miracle and not fully understood to this day.
As the afternoon passed, the sun began to fall and the shadows grew longer.
Rain in the distance created a rainbow in the mountains
Seven (of eight) our small group from the Xpedition cruise ship
After a wonderful and rewarding afternoon touring Machu Picchu, followed by afternoon tea, we returned to the railway station at the bottom of the hill to take the Hiram Bingham train back to Cusco.
Well, not exactly !
It turned out that somehow Celebrity Cruises had failed to make reservations on the return train. A large group which had stayed overnight at Machu Picchu had taken all the available seats and we were left out in the cold. After much huffing and puffing and calls to the Lima office, we accepted that we weren't going to get on the train and our hapless tour guide purchased seats for us on the regular train which left shortly thereafter. This train didn't even go all the way to Cusco but only as far as Ollantaytambo, where we had been the day before. From there, we had to take an uncomfortable 90 minute bus ride back to the hotel, where at 10:30pm we did finally get dinner.
However, there WAS some entertainment on the train !
The next morning, very early, we flew back to Lima for our last night in Peru.