Our story continues with a family reunion in Cusco, Peru. In this episode my beloved mother will take over the writing duties, explaining the process to set us up for a successful siege of Machu Picchu.
(I, Brett, will be inserting my thoughts in italics in this article. A fitting typeface, as my thoughts are always a bit askew.)
I wanted to enjoy my “vacation” so I asked family members if they’d be willing to do some writing about our time in Peru. My Mother gladly volunteered, further solidifying her front-runner status as Mom of the century. My Grandma won the award for the 20th century, so we’re hoping to keep it in the family. Take it away!
Monday, March 26
Brett asked me, his mom, to write a guest post for this day. All over Peru we’ve learned about Pachamama, Mother Earth, and how she is believed to be the source of all life and happiness. I don’t pretend to be any mother earth but I was one HappyMama this day after being reunited the night before with Brett, Brad, and Elise (my Sister and Brother-in-law)! What could be better?!
Just a little back story here to tell about our grand reunion. Randel and I had checked into the lovely Kori Gems Inn in Cusco on Saturday with the intent to have the kids take taxis there to meet us before we went on to the Sacred Valley. But delays seem to be the norm rather than the exception with international flights. As the day and delays wore on we booked another room for Sunday night for all of us.
The Inn is a 300 year old colonial building with a courtyard filled with flowers and some Inca stones as it was built on an Inca site. We had a beautiful place to wait and anticipate! What makes a mom happier than being reunited with her children? There were hugs, squeals of delight, and pure joy as our daughter, Elise, and her husband, Brad, arrived in the afternoon.
The scenario was repeated but with compounded interest when our son, Brett, arrived in the evening (I suspect fewer squeals though). We gathered in our unique room with foundation stones exposed to eat, visit, and laugh! Pame’s family (my Ecuafamilia) had sent all kinds of food with Brett as well as little purses filled with chocolates for Elise and me.
Chochos and a maracuya fruit:
Pame’s mom, Rosita, had written a touching letter to Brad and Elise thanking them for their kindness and care for Pame. My mama’s heart could understand her mama’s thankfulness no matter the language barrier.
Cue the waterworks! 🙂
As our reunion continued we often remarked how unbelievable it was to all be in Cusco, Peru, together! How blessed we are! Breakfast was included with the room so the next morning we ate together before beginning our pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.
A word should be said here about finding Machu Picchu. This vacation home of the Inca nobility is a hidden city and was not “discovered” by the outside world until 1911. Getting there even today is quite complicated. This is the part were I should be called PlannerMama as everyone was happy to let me organize the details as this dream trip moved to reality.
In the spirit of Brett’s 41 simple steps to get into Mexico let me outline my planning steps to visit Machu Picchu.
1-I’m a Nebraskan so we’ll rent a car in Lima and drive to Cusco. More research reveals that the road is mountainous, not all paved, and a ten hour trip by bus. I guess we’ll fly to Cusco instead.
2-Randel and I get tickets to Arequipa so we can visit there, Puno, and the Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca before going by bus to Cusco.
(Man, white people are crazy.)
3-Brett, Brad, and Elise get tickets to Cusco
4-Figure out how to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu.
5-Day train from Cusco too expensive and only allows a few hours at Machu Picchu. Nix that one.
6-Decide to take two hour taxi or collectivo (like a mini-bus) ride to Ollantaytambo to catch Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes. Can arrange this after we get to Cusco.
7-Buy tickets for train ride for all five of us online. Get passport numbers from everyone as I have to enter that information before purchase. Pay.
8-Print tickets but don’t forget to stop in a Peru Rail office when in Peru to get the real passes.
9-Decide how to get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Young ones decide to hike. Randel and I opt for exciting bus ride with many hair pin turns up the mountain.
10-Buy tickets for Machu Picchu online as they are not sold on site. Decide on afternoon shift for entrance.
11-Give ticket agency everyone’s passport numbers and personal information. Pay.
12-Don’t forget to take photos of everyone’s Peru stamp on passport after arrival and email to ticket agency so we can get into MP.
13-Don’t panic when you learn on Sunday that the government has decided to close Machu Picchu for the afternoon you are to be there.
14-Do be very thankful for Brad and the hotel staff for trying to help with contacting our ticket agency.
15-Don’t be surprised that you can’t reach them on Sunday.
16-Do agree with everyone that our best bet is to go for it and try to enter in the morning.
17-Don’t freak out when you notice that Brett’s ticket lists him as a female. (I knew she always wanted a girl!)
(Between transportation and entrance fees, visiting Machu Picchu came out to right around $300/person. This does not include the lodging, meals, or transportation to Peru, of course. We were very thankful that Mom found the most efficient way to visit.)
So back to our personal story of getting to Machu Picchu. We had planned to take a collectivo but since we had a 10:30 train to catch our sweet hotel clerk, Cathy, arranged for a taxi for us. Frank, our driver, did not speak English so having our Spanish speakers, Brad and Brett (well…Brad at least), was a blessing on our whole trip.
The total trip was two hours with the cost being less than $50 for all of us. Cusco is a large city with buildings climbing up the mountain peaks on all sides so first we headed uphill past the many shops and homes. Typical sights are busses, motorcycles, cars, stray dogs, women in Peruvian dress with large blanket packs on their backs, many pedestrians, and all manner of roadside shops.
One not typical sight our driver paused for briefly was a funeral procession coming down the middle of the street. A small band played as the family carried the casket and banners with their loved one’s picture. A sobering moment to remember that while we are on an amazing vacation others all over are hurting.
Soon we descended into the Sacred Valley. The terrain changed to fertile fields along the Urubamba River. Corn and potatoes are the most common crops. It was a sunny day and there were mountains on either side of the valley so we had a scenic trip.
Our one rest stop was in a pretty spot. You have to pay to use the baños and there are open air shops with woven alpaca goods and trinkets on either side on the banos building. Usually a girl or woman in typical dress is present with an alpaca or two eager for you to pay for a photo.
Frank let us off at the bustling train station and we headed to the boarding area. It was very warm by now so we stopped to buy more bottled water and some cactus fruit for a snack.
Sorry, Elise, I just really like this picture. 🙂
The train attendants were very careful in checking our passports and tickets as we boarded the train. Since we were a fivesome one of us was destined not to sit in the seats of two or four. Guess who was the odd one out. Me. So I sat down with my new Brazilian friends, Fernando, Eduardo, and Tatiana.
We had an hour and a half to get acquainted and had a great time doing so. They had good tips for us for our time in Cusco. Of course, they were very interested in Brett’s trip and wished me a happy birthday when they learned I was celebrating on this trip. All had lived in the US or England for a short time so their English was very good. I wish my Spanish was a tenth as good!
Riding a train is still a novelty for me so it was a totally enjoyable trip Occasionally a little announcement would come over the speaker system telling about the area. We did pass a few ruins. As we rode along the mountains became steeper and higher. The Andes mountains are so narrow, high, and pointed. More rocks and rapids filled the river. Really a scenic ride.
The hunter stalks his prey:
A light mist was falling when we arrived at Aguas Calientes. It was a thrill to see a young man holding a sign with my name on it! When I’d made arrangements online to stay at Machu Picchu Adventure Lodge the hotel asked what time our train arrived.
We are not very fancy. It doesn’t take much to impress us. 🙂
Our pleasant welcome continued as we checked in. The young man behind the desk took a great deal of time to explain the layout of the town and information on where eat and to get bus tickets. We had two rooms across the hall from each other and settled in comfortably.
Getting bus tickets for Randel and me was the first order of business so we walked to the bus station. We didn’t realize we needed our passports for those tickets also so Brad ran back to get them for us. Another stop was at an ATM where we met a gal from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Glad I got to use this!
She was familiar with the homeless shelter where Brett used to work and knows Pastor Tom, the director. We then found a local restaurant for a delicious meal and great visiting.
On the way back to the Adventure House we wandered through the local market. Stall after stall again. Brett wanted to buy me an alpaca blanket for my birthday so I began my perusing for the perfect one. Elise found a traditional woven hat with ear flaps for our trek tomorrow. With full tummies and excitement about tomorrow we headed to bed early so we could be up by 4:00 am.
Not too bad, Mom. You lack some of my futile attempts at humor and wit, but overall it fits the voice of this publication well. Thanks for all of your work to make this dream reunion a reality. Pachamama’s got nothing on you!
Stay maternal, everybody!