When Plans Change Take the Orient Express

Because When You Stop and Look Around This Life is Pretty Amazing!!!!

Since the hike did not happen, I decided to splurge and reward myself for handling the baggage situation with as much patience as I did (positive reinforcement works well for me) and book a round trip on the Orient Express’ Hiram Bingham Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu.  No Tengo Palabras (yes my Spanish speaking friends I know this is the wrong phrase but it is one I love and will continue to use; as you will continue to shake your head and laugh at me)…I have no words for how luxurious and opulent this trip was:  much different (opposite ends of the spectrum different) than the originally planned hike to Machu Picchu

I would recommend this journey to anyone wanting to splurge, as it is more than a bit pricey, the only thing I would do differently is to take the train to Machu Picchu one day, spend the night at the hotel inside Machu Picchu and return by train the day after or even two days later.  The complete trip all in one day was really much more tiring than one could imagine (that coming from me with my weeks of sugar/carb loading and endless amounts of excited energy).

We began the day with a folk dance performance performed by regional dancers while being served breakfast plates of assorted fruits and homemade breads accompanied by drinks of choice (juices, coffees, champagne) in the Orient Express Lounge.  Oh no this was not a passive watch the dancers type of show they actually expected you to participate and dance: this white girl has no rhythm but it was so much fun even at 7am.

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Next we boarded Mercedes Vans that would transport us through the first hour of the trip; as it was the rainy season mud-slides had closed part of the tracks.  We arrived somewhere in Peru (hey don’t judge the memory isn’t the finely tuned steel trap it used to be) to board the train while being serenaded.

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The train itself was regally beautiful: hard wood paneling, brass fixtures, and every 5 star amenity imaginable.  In the bar car, they were serving breads, sweet potato chips, tapas and cappuccino/espresso.  See that huge smile that is a direct effect of someone providing me endless supply of caffeine and carbs in the form of freshly baked breads until which time Brunch is served.  Even Tall Dutch Man is so happy he is actually smiling for photos.

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As you can see from the menu, Brunch was an impressive feast each course paired with complimentary wine offerings.  I am now in a food porn induced coma as we arrive to the train station in Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters) at the base of Machu Picchu.

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Machu Picchu was all that I had imagined it would have been: Magical, mystical and breath-taking beautiful.  You can look at all your friend’s photos, hear their stories, live their adventures, read about it on the internet, or watch travel specials about it but those things can not even begin to capture how spectacular this place truly is.  There is no preparation for how you will feel standing there taking it all in.  So, I won’t even try with words: just look for yourself, find sometime, and take the trip of a lifetime.

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At the end of the day our guide pointed those of us who wanted to climb the stairs in the direction of the Sun Gates, gave us directions on how to return to the lodge, and said she would meet us in two hours.  There were 6 of us who choose to climb to the top and do you think any of the six of us bothered to listen to the instructions on how to get back….NO!!!  I think we all assumed someone else was listening. as we were all too eager for our little adventure.  Off we went at first almost running up the steps with anticipation, well we all know that cannot last long (factoring in the number of steps and high altitude) unless you are in iron man shape.   Alas we all made it to the top TO THIS INCREDIBLE VIEW!!!

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The little detail of getting back a few wrong turns and we all arrived to the lodge in time for High Tea:  Just FYI mint tea from Peru is the best in the world.  I think Tall Dutch Man is sad for this adventure to be ending the second display of emotion in front of the camera in one day this place must be magical.

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After a return drive back to the train station at Aguas Calientes, we boarded the train heading back to Cusco.  Dinner was excellent followed by drinks, music and singing in the bar car.  Yes you are seeing correctly Tall Dutch Man is actually singing in public and he danced as well….I have no idea what had gotten into this crazy man either my personality is rubbing off on him or it is an effect of altitude sickness!!!

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I can honestly say the trip on the Hiram Bingham Orient Express was the most extravagant tour I have been on.  But one I would not hesitate to take again even when factoring in the cost.  The service and luxury from beginning to end is something akin to what most of us are used to just seeing in movies and wondering what that would be like.  The staff each person was warm, kind and accommodating nothing was too much and never were they anything but helpful and charming.

Like all good things our time Peru came to an end though not without learning new lessons:  yes I can make it for a week with only a few clothing items and no hair straightener, raw eggs in pisco sours are not appetizing to me; however pisco straight and pisco with passion fruit are completely acceptable, Peru has 3000 varieties of potatoes for me to try and believe me I tried to sample them all,  directions are merely suggestions, and most importantly plans can change and the outcome is even better than the original plan.

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