We used the Andean Explorer to cover the distance between Puno and Cusco on our way to Macchu Pichu. We were rather excited about it the day beforehand and we have to admit that all our exceptations were met. The trip was just wonderful.
The andean experience starts at check in where you are greeted by peruvian mucisians while the friendly staff went through check-in. Everything about check-in is smooth and quick including luggage handling.
Then you board the train. The train is picked out of an old picture book, mahogany interior, art deco details, winged armchair, tablecoths, fresh roses, ... The lot.
The train slowly makes its way out of Puno and then hits the Altiplano. Always at a pace of between 50 to 60 km, sometimes, unforeseen, stopping, which gives you a good possibilty to take the scenery in.
Our guide adviced us to be in the vista waggon by the time the train crossed the city of Juliaca as the train would cross the market street. We shot some of the most beautiful pictures there. The train indeed cuts the market in two in a very narrow street. You can literally touch the goods from aboard the train. People sheer and wave at the train enthusiasticaly.
After a light breakfast of coffee and muesli, in the bar waggon, there's a music show and complimentary pisco's before it's time for lunch. Now, in all honesty, apart from the experience of dining in such beautiful surroundings, the food is nothing special and neither is the tea and bellini's in the late afternoon. Then, that's not what it is all about I guess.
The staff, without exception, is great. Some of them even showing some dance skills while the band is playing.
At la Gaya, half way, the train stops. Here both trains interchange and outside there is a small market of weaving and knitting articles ... Ofcourse !
Everywhere there's an interchange, the train needs to stop as tracks are changed manually. Be prepared for people selling their goods at the vista car. (These moments give you however equally the time to reflect how some of us can afford to travel like this and others need to live a life that is much harder ...)
The train then makes it way to the ever more dramatic scenery of the Andes, partly while the sun sets to reach Cusco in darkness. Turning the antique waggons into something extremely cosy.
Nearlyeleven hours on a train, the old sound and rocking of the train on the rails, the horn to get people and animals of the track, ... Wonderfull and you would not at all have thought it took so long. If international flights could only have part of the charm and entertainment ...
We were seated in waggon A, adjacent to the vista waggon, and from the constant passing of people and camera's to and from the vista waggon, I think I can say we were not the only ones that thought this experience to be great.
We are looking forward to a similar experience from Cusco to Macchu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham Train in a few days
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