Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Hello! I’m writing from the Supertramp Hostel in Aguas Calientes, Peru! I’m currently sitting on a bean bag chair in the lobby, occasionally letting my gaze drift off to the logo (shaped like a marijuana leaf) to the left, or to the ample graffiti left by past hostelers that covers pretty much every other surface. 80’s rock gently plays in the background, contrasting with the receptionist, who is singing Spanish ballads at her desk. This is Supertramp.
Today has been an absolute whirlwind. Frightened by signs at the train station denoting a one-bag limit per passenger, Collin and I somehow managed to fit our backpacks into our gym bags, while Kevin said fuck it and just brought both bags. Kevin was fine, while Collin and I both carried uncomfortably heavy packs. This didn’t matter at all, though, because the rain ride was AWESOME. 1.5 hours of river and mountain views, plus *authentic* Incan music (it sounded like we were at Disney World), a snack of fruit and pastries, and a drink. I could not ask for more. Except maybe for the announcer giving the English translation to not have the accent of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin.
The serenity of the train ride came to a screeching halt when we were spit out into the city of Aguas Calientes, where tourists and locals crowded the area around the train station. We had no idea where our hostel was, but luckily the first person we stopped was able to point us in the right direction, past a field of kids playing soccer (Collin almost jumped in), and into the ‘Plaza de Cultures.’ We were led up to our room, which was equipped with 4 bunkbeds (we have 2 roommates, but I don’t think they speak English).
We dropped our stuff off and set off in search of: Machu Picchu tickets, a lock for our hostel locker, FOOD, and towels. We had secured towels and a lock when we hit a snag in our plans. At the Machu Picchu ticketing office, Collin realized that he had forgotten his passport. Back to the hostel it was!
We set back out with new goals: Soles (we were low), tickets to Machu Picchu and the bus there, and still, FOOD. The money exchange bureaus are inside pretty much every business in Aguas Calientes (people basically just give you their money in exchange for USD, so they must be getting a good exchange rate SOMEWHERE). The only issue is that they are very picky with the American money that they will accept. If your bill is worn, ripped, written on, then sorry – they won’t accept it. Thank god for ATMs!
We scored Machu Picchu tickets (without a fight over our student IDs!) for S/.72 that give us entry to Machu Picchu and the hike to Machu Picchu mountain (Huaynu Picchu is also popular, costing just S/.5 more, but it was sold out when we got there). We grabbed one-way bus tickets up for S/.30 each, deciding to walk back down based on our lack of money.
Tickets in hand, we FINALLY set out in search of food – we were STARVING. We let Chef Kevin make the executive decision, and after several passes up and down a very steep street, we decided on a nice looking place called Inka something or other. Note: restaurant owners in Aguas Calientes are RUTHLESS and will do anything to try to get you into their restaurant. They will yell at you, promise free drinks, stand in your way, everything short of physically dragging you into the restaurant.
Inka DID get us through the door with a promise of free pisco sours. Despite being in Peru for a few days, we had yet to try their official drink! We also loved that we had another cheap (S/.15) three-course menu. We loved that there was a bottle of pisco on our table wearing a decorative Peruvian hat – it was very difficult to refrain from pouring from the bottle directly into our drinks. They were delicious, by the way, and we ordered another round as soon as we finished. We probably should have known that these would be more expensive when they came out in large wine glasses, but we said fuck it and drank them. They ended up being S/.15 each – as much as our whole meal – but worth it.
Appetizers: Collin got creamy chicken soup, which he said was creamy. Kevin get creole soup, which he said was good. I got stuffed avocado, which was awesome. It was like deconstructed guacamole, with tomatoes, cheese, peppers, and salsa served over avocado slices.
Main Courses: I got chicken, which was pretty much exactly like it was at Cuy’s, aka perfect – thin, grilled, well-seasoned, and served with rice, papas fritas, and ‘salad.’ Collin ventured out and got the trout. Kevin tried alpaca (I cried), which he said was good but a bit tough, and mostly tasted like beef.
Postres (desserts): Collin and I each had the chocolate pancake, which was a bit of a misnomer since it was about 1/4 of a pancake drizzled with chocolate syrup. Kevin got the same thing, but with sliced bananas rather than chocolate sauce. Kevin’s came out about 10 minutes after ours, and by this point we were exhausted from walking up and down the hills of Aguas, and we faced a 4 AM wake up call for Machu Picchu the next morning.
However, this did not prevent us from stopping at a fried chicken and Papas Fritas stand on the way home (S/.5) and bringing our food to the soccer field to watch a game. I met the most beautiful, sweet little Carlos there, who I absolutely fell in love with. He left me when he realized I wouldn’t feed him. I miss that little guy.
We called it a night around 9 PM, returning to the hostel for a shower, some unwinding, and finally bed. I’ll be back with an update from Machu Picchu!