Aguas Calientes

Here we are in Aguas Calientes, the energized, colourful, and bustling gateway to Machu Picchu. You can hear the roaring waters of the Urubamba River from every square foot, and see the thousands of locals and tourists mixing as one. The journey through the Sacred Valley began with our 8:30 am departure after breakfast in Cusco. We climbed into Luis’ van and began the mountainous drive to our destination.

One of the highlights was stopping along the way at a handicraft market in the town of Chinchero. We watched talented Incan women weaving sheep, alpaca, and llama tapestries. They explained the process of how they clean the fur and dye it in various colours using only natural products like plants, insects, and tree bark. Super authentic and super educational. They clean the fur with a type of yucca root that they grate and mix with water. Did you know that the Peruvians in that region don’t have grey hair because they wash it with this root???? I asked where I can buy this magical shampoo because let’s be honest…my greys aren’t shy these days. Unfortunately, they don’t sell it for commercial purposes. It kind of makes you respect the process even more.

After a few hours on the road, we made it to our train station. We enjoyed a two-hour relaxing ride through the Andes, enjoying the breathtaking view through the panoramic windows.

Alas, we arrived in Aguas Calientes! We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out to explore the town. We then grabbed our bathing suits and headed to the Hot Springs! Upward we walked, through the streets lined with cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops, to finally reach the entry point of the hot springs. It was just a short 5-minute hike, but we somehow seemed to be in a different world upon arrival; a peaceful and tranquil environment completely surrounded by nature and the amplified sounds of the river. We entered the grounds, changed into our bathing suits, and enjoyed the many different Hot Spring Pools – some warmer than others, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a calming environment; a place in which you can truly relax to prepare for the big bucket-list event of the following day.

Our group had another few hours to enjoy the town before meeting for dinner. We are very busy this week, so this day of exploration, hot springs, time for shopping and sipping coffee is truly deserved and much appreciated. We ate a hearty meal at a restaurant catering to all tastebuds. Luis even surprised us with something that some of us have been talking about all week: guinea pig!!!! Yes, guinea pig or cuy in spanish, is a very traditional and common meal amongst the Peruvians. When I asked how it tasted, some replied, “like chicken”. I personally thought it was delicious, but a few bites just to taste was all we needed.

I write this now as our students are warm in their beds, enjoying a restful sleep before the 4:30am wake up call (no that was NOT a typo!) for the adventure that awaits us; one of the primary reasons people from all over the world flock to Peru; one of the New Seven Wonders of the world: Machu Picchu!

We are so excited that we have finally reached the bucket list item and we can’t wait to show you pictures tomorrow.

Have a great weekend everyone! You get to see your loved ones in just three more sleeps!

Alex