Aguas Calientes is a little shanty-made-tourist town near Machu Picchu, where the train runs back to Km 82 (en route to Cuzco). Essentially, it´s a pit stop for trekkers in either direction, and there is not much to see or do. The name means ¨hot water¨ and there are infamous hot springs there ..
Well, let me tell you .. despite our hunger, a few of us wanted to go to the springs – which closed at 8pm – in order to say we experienced the main attraction of Aguas Calientes. After trekking through town and up what seemed like an endless hill (our muscles were so full of lactic acid i felt like the tin man) .. we got to the springs. Ten soles (approx $3 USD) later we were changed and headed down to the ¨springs¨, which were essentially hot-tubs with gravel as a floor.
To understate the nastiness of our experience — the pools were murky, grey, and at least 50% urine! I am not kidding. We got into the popular looking one (there were about 5) that had something like 50 people in it, all tourists, drinking beer. I joined Katy in the middle, with my nice new Brazilian-bought bathingsuit on. I lasted no more than 130 seconds. I think being on the Inca Trail for 2 nights had diminished my awareness of voice volume, because I apparently stated quite loudly and emphatically – ¨Eww, it smells like pee!!¨. Liz was dry heaving and laughing at the same time, and Katy´s face began to twist in mild to moderate disgust. A dreadlocked speedo-clad dude looked at me and said… ¨Whhy do you ziink its soo waaarmm?¨ I think the look I shot him back was a combination of ¨Really, dirtbag?¨ and ¨Noone actually SAYS that …!¨ Needless to say we got out and, given we wanted to get the most of our $3, tried 2 more pools with very similar proportions of urine. He followed us to the 3rd pool and that was it. I never thought I would feel dirtier than I had after 3 days without a shower, but I was wrong. Thank goodness we had no open cuts ..
I enjoy ranting about things because it makes me laugh, and laugh we did … instead of being bitter about our wasted money and less than amazing ¨muscle soothing hot spring experience¨ we had a nice hot shower outside and scrubbed our hair and skin until it almost fell off. Hey – don´t knock it til you´ve tried it .. and we did! And I´m knocking it. AVOID THE PEE POOLS ALL TOGETHER 🙂
That night we went out for a nice dinner and were, of course, the loudest table at the restaurant. We were so exhausted and sore that it was nice to sit down and have a glass of wine, some soup and a hearty meal. Sleep came easily … and a full fledged hotel bed was certainly met with warm welcome 🙂
The next morning we took a train (business class, ooh lala) to km 82 and then our driver picked us up to take us back to Cuzco. We had a relaxing afternoon to do what we wished .. and it would be the first time in the trip (and the only) where we would have 2 nights in ONE PLACE! I decided to get a $30 USD for 1 hour massage, in my hotel room .. given my IT Band issue in my knee was acting up pretty severely (good timing though, as it gave me no trouble on the hike) and my calves were about as tight as an unstretched rubber band. It was well worth it, and despite the pain, did help a bit with the walking later that day!
We went out for a last dinner at a delicious restaurant, where we had a private room(our group needs as much sound proofing as possible during meals out). The place was called Nuna Raymi and the manager/co-owner came to us with incredible description sof every meal – the sauce, the texture, the pairings of spices .. It was like listening to a poet write about the love of his life .. except this guy was talking about meat and cream sauce..
I split Alpaca and Lomo Saltado with Liz. I have to say, Alpaca tastes like flavourful and lean steak .. and the Lomo Saltado (a famous Peruvian dish of savoury, smokey beef sauteed/flame-grilled with onions, tomatoes and spices) was my favourite!
It was hard to say goodbye to the few that were leaving tomorrow, but I know a few of us will keep in touch 🙂
Today was our first full day of NOTHING SCHEDULED! It was fantastic! After our briefing about the Amazong Jungle trek (starting tomorrow), Katy, Liz and I decided to head out for some sight-seeing, souvenir shopping, and empanada-eating.
We went to the Inka Museum and to the Qorikancha (convent). The Inka Museum was very interesting, and many ancient items – from jewellery to pottery to communication textiles – were well preserved. There were also Incan women making textiles in the courtyard by hand .. and it was incredible to watch. I also found it entertaining that one of them – donning all of the traditional clothing – was texting on her Nokia phone all the while .. a true melding of time and culture.
For lunch we had empanadas and man oh man these were even BETTER than in Argentina (or maybe I should say, different!)! It was a little shop with tables, and they only sold empanadas (no menus, even). You got 2 for about 1.50 soles each (less than $1 USD) … the dough was made with sweet potato, I believe, and the inside was ground beef, chicken, onions, and some spicy sweet tamarind-chutney type sauce. They came with a deliciously spicy salsa (who knew I liked spicy?) and lime to squeeze. Yum!
We hit up the artisan market as well, and continued on with our souvenir shopping for friends and family. In the evening we went out for drinks at a coffee shop overlooking the Plaza de Armas, with Graham and Ali (two lovely Brits) .. and headed to dinner a few doors down. It was a very relaxing evening and a welcomed treat. We all joke that going back to work will be a ¨vacation¨ given our typical 430am or 530am wake up calls and busy days.
Tomorrow we head to the Jungle for 2 nights! Another experience … 🙂