The train to Aguas Calientes was about three hours. We didn’t know it when we boarded, but they would be serving us breakfast. A pleasant surprise for our hungry bellies. It was a beautiful ride through the Andes. When we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we grabbed our bags and headed to our hostel. We had found a three-person hostel with a private bathroom, which we were looking forward to. It saved us the hassle of having to lock our belongings in a locker at night time.
The walk to our hostel was only about four blocks, but it was UPHILL. Not a tiny hill, but an incredibly steep incline. We were, after all, in the mountains. My mom and brother had developed a harness system for us (they knew it would be hilly in Peru). The harness was essentially a belt that strapped around the ‘puller,’ in this case Julie or Tony, with two straps that attached to the back of the belt and onto the wheelchair. We used this harness some and it was helpful, especially in the hills of Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes means Hot Waters in Spanish. The town is famous for two reasons – they have hot thermal springs, and it’s the last stopping point before Maccu Picchu. It might be the cutest little city I’ve ever seen. It’s literally nestled between several mountains and can only be accessed by train. It’s full of tiny cafes and authentic restaurants and shops. After dropping our bags at the hostel, we had lunch at an authentic Peruvian restaurant, where Julie and I tried Aji de Gallina. This means Pepper of the Hen in Spanish. Aji is a local pepper used in this chicken dish. It is fabulous! Tony had Cuy. This means guinea pig in Spanish. Yes, he had an entire guinea pig, cut into four quarters and served on the bone, claws still attached.
That evening, we put on our swimsuits in 40 degree Fahrenheit weather and made the fifteen minute walk to the hot springs. Well…it was more of a slow crawl with the wheelchair and the dirt and rock path that led up to it, but we did make it. I had visited hot springs before in a few different parts of the world, so I thought I knew what to expect. I assumed there would be a few pools with different temperature waters…and there were. I assumed they would have the smell of hot springs, like minerals and sulfur…and they did. I assumed there would be people of all sizes, shapes, and ethnicities…and there were. But what it was not was clean. The water was the color of dirty dish water, kind of green but kind of brown. It was murky and you couldn’t see two inches below the surface. I almost asked Julie and Tony if we could skip out on this, about to vomit from the thought of dipping my foot into it, but I reminded myself that I would likely never visit Aguas Calientes again, and life is about experiences. So, I tore my t-shirt and pants off and slid into the water that looked like it might be thick like pudding. We stayed for a short time, laughing about how disgusting it was, but soaking up the experience.
We stopped for a quick Peruvian pizza on the way back to the hostel where we all immediately jumped into the shower to clean the grime off of our skin. It had been three days since we had taken a hot shower. We packed our bags and prepared for a 4:45 am wake up. Our next day was what we had come for – Maccu Picchu.