Nasca lines, Chauchilla Cemetery and ancient aquaducts [YQrtw Day 112 Jul 31]

Up close with Nasca lines

Location: Nasca, Peru

After the bus ride last night, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep but the hostel owner convinced me to join a land tour of the Nasca lines.

At breakfast, the tour guide ordered me to the front desk. I was very annoyed since I was still eating. He then tried to sell me his package as I was not pleased with him, I was non-committal.

At breakfast, I met a lady from the US. Her name was Ida* (not her real name). Since she wanted to go on the land tour to the Nasca lines and the cemetery, I said I would too.

Ida said that she did not have a chance to take photos of the lines since her camera batteries ran out yesterday when she was on the plane ride.

Seeing the Nasca lines up close

The land tour turned out to be quite fun and the guide was nicer when not trying to sell his package.

Our first stop was a lookout for the Nasca lines. The lookout was a metal structure with a narrow winding staircase. From that look out, we saw a hand, an upside down tree and a lizard which are part of the Nasca lines.

Height of Nasca lines lookout
Height of Nasca lines lookout
Sunblock and I at the Nasca lookout
Sunblock and I at the Nasca lookout

From that high (which is not much), the Nasca lines do not look that impressive. Up close, I saw that the ditches were really shallow and narrow. I imagined something as impressive as crop circles.

Next was the Palpa lines which had an adorable set of people etched on the side of a sand hill. My camera could not capture the figures so I give you the photo from the exhibit.

Cute Palpa lines figures
Cute Palpa lines figures
Sign at free lookout point
Sign at free lookout point

A long long drive away was the cemetery. During the ride, I fell asleep and woke up to find a desert around us.

The cemetery had tombs of some ancient people. These folks were mummified after they died and laid in little stone tombs. Many of them still had their long dreadlocks which were curled around their bodies.

Mummies at Cemetery of Chauchilla
Mummies at Cemetery of Chauchilla
Cemetery of Chauchilla
Cemetery of Chauchilla

Tomb raiders had stolen most of the beautiful pottery and left some of the bones and clothes above ground. We did see bits of human bones lying around.

Surprisingly, the bodies were left in their crouching positions in their tombs, as if the caretakers do not mind them being exposed in the open air.

Our last stop was the ancient aqua ducts. This was the most impressive since some of the twenty spiral aqua ducts went tens of meters deep into the ground.

Spiral blow holes at Nasca channels
Spiral blow holes at Nasca channels

The total of the tour was 150 soles per person.

To fly to see Nasca lines or not?

After seeing the Nasca lines up close, I am thinking of not spending my time and money on a flight over the lines.

Ida said that the planes do not fly if it is cloudy. This means that people who booked slots in the morning are forced to wait until the sky clears (about 1pm today) and those with later slots will need to wait even later.

Another reason that I do not want to take the plane is that it does a lot of flying manoeuvres so people on both sides and see the lines. After my motion sickness episode, I do not look forward to that.

My plan for tomorrow is to take a morning bus to Ica then if there are cheap buses to Lima, I will head to the capital. If not, I will spend a night in Ica then take the bus on the following day.

Travel safe, folks!

Violently car sick from Cusco to Nasca [YQrtw Day 111 Jul 30]

Oltursa bus

Location: Cusco -> Nasca, Peru

When I started this daily log of my trip, I promised myself not to hide too much from you guys. I want to record the good, the bad and the ugly of a long-term trip.

I am writing this entry in my warm hostel in Nasca. I am glad that the events that I will share is in the past. Some of the more graphic parts of the story will be hidden in white font and those who wish to feel disgusted can highlight those paragraphs to relive the event.

Last morning in Cusco

I checked out of my “hotel” slightly before 10 and went to a restaurant listed on Wikitravel for breakfast. The food was good with local bread, a juice, scrambled eggs and even a latte to go with it.

Morning latte at Victor Victoria
Morning latte at Victor Victoria

Unfortunately, during breakfast, I had reached almost the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Even though I’ve read the book so many times, I still wept over [highlight the next two words for spoiler] Dumbledore’s death.

Afterwards, I did a bit of souvenir shopping at one of the handicraft places. I left with a plastic bag full of things I hope can be used back in the Southeast Asian tropics.

I loitered outside a restaurant Nana* (not her real name) and I went to the day before to steal their Wi-Fi. Nana left a message saying that she’ll be meeting her Swiss friends at noon. Since Nana would not be reading this, I will admit that I had a tiny crush on one of the guys so I happily said that I would go too.

I still had time before the meet up so I headed to a cafe I had marked on Foursquare. The cafe, called Panam Cafe, reminded me of the Capitol in The Hunger Game series. The coffee was alright and I bought a croissant-like bread almost as big as my face to nibble on my 14-hour bus ride to Nasca.

It was time for the meet up and I stood under the shadow of a light pole, waiting. The guys came eventually although Nana was still stuck with her errand.

We headed to San Pedro market. There, I had two and a half glass of juice since I was more thirsty than hungry. Unknown to me then, not eating lunch was a wise choice.

Soon it was time for me to leave. I bade farewell and went back to my hotel for my “muchas cosas” (loads of things).

Ciao Cusco!

The taxi ride to the bus terminal was smooth. I checked in my things and paid for the bus terminal tax.

Oltursa bus
Oltursa bus

I was delighted to find that the bus Wi-Fi worked this time for my phone. On my last Oltursa trip, my phone could not join the Wi-Fi network. I wrote a post on my Facebook Page showing how the interior of the bus looked like.

When the bus set off, I was tired but excited to be heading to a new location. I had a small packet of wafers to tide me over before the dinner on board.

Plus, my school mate from the Arequipa language school, Tasha was going to meet me in Nasca so I’ll have a travel buddy.

A few hours into the journey, I started feeling a little queasy. The bus was rocking quite violently as it turned on the curves of the hill. I few times, I felt my stomach churning but I kept everything down.

When it was dinner time, at about 7pm, I felt even more nauseated by the smell of food. I covered my nose with my blanket and hoped for the best.

When the bus attendant came over with the trolley, she saw that I was unwell and suggested that I do not eat. I was allowed a small cup of Coca Cola which I drank happily. Later, she passed me a plastic bag and a pill for motion sickness.

I rested, with my hand grabbing tightly at the plastic. Then at one of the rocky turns, I knew I could not keep my stomach down any longer.

Being sick on the bus

[Beginning of unpleasant recount of vomiting. Please highlight to reveal the content.]

I have not thrown up in a while so I was quite curious about how it was.

In the beginning, saliva fills up in my mouth, as if my body wants to protect my mouth from the attack of stomach acid. I held the plastic close to my mouth and retched.

Out came a flow of liquid (thank goodness for my juice lunch) and a taste of wafer. With the bag held closely to my mouth, I threw up more liquid.

Even when my stomach was empty, it cramped for many times to make sure that nothing was left inside. It was a most unpleasant feeling as I burped out air.

When the ordeal was over, I rinsed my mouth and tied the bag. I held on to the bag at my side, glad that the man sitting next to me had moved behind so he did not have to see that scene.

I closed my eyes and rested. I woke up when the attendant came over with hot water and tea bags. She even gave me two mate de coca which helps with altitude sickness. I embarrassedly pointed to my plastic bag. Later she passed me two bags.

I sipped some mate and rested. I could feel the bus turning every corner. I imagined that the upper deck was swaying more violently than the lower deck. I also imagined the liquid in my ears churning wildly.

I had to throw up again. This time, there was only the taste of mate. I was horrified since this meant that even drinking liquid can cause more throwing up.

When the bus stopped for new passengers, I brought my two vomit bags to the toilet and dumped them in the trash can that was lined with another plastic bag. I hoped the altitude would not cause them to burst.

When I got back to my seat, I felt a pounding in my head. This usually meant that I did not drink enough water and I was having an effect similar to a hangover.

I took tiny tiny sips of water to pacify my body. Eventually, these five sips of water came back up but that was at three hours before the end of the journey.

When I finished all three plastic bags, I had to go to the back of the bus to wake the attendant and ask for more plastic bags. I threw away the soiled bag as she rummaged through her first aid kit.

She found a plastic bag that held bottles of soft drink. Thank goodness I did not have to use that bag.

[End of disgusting story.]

Arriving in Nasca

I didn’t really sleep but I was woken up by the attendant at past 6am. She told me that the next stop was Nasca. I gathered all my things and waited patiently for the bus to stop.

When I got off the bus, I waited for Tasha’s Arequipa bus to come. The bus did came but she did not. The attendant of that bus was unhelpful when I asked if a Senora Tasha was on board.

In the end, I got on a taxi found by a tout. The tout said the ride was 5 soles (reasonable for tout prices). He told me that my hotel was full. I read about this trick in travel guides and insisted that they bring me to my hostel.

Thankfully the driver did not try to bring me to some strange place. I was left at the front door of the hostel where the caretaker Fernando greeted me a long while after I rang the doorbell.

I picked the dorm room which is empty apart from my bed. I requested for breakfast since my stomach was empty. I was surprised that the breakfast didn’t feel like The Best Meal Ever but was glad for food and a solid ground.

My adventures for the day will continue in the next post!

Who likes Aguas Calientes? I kind of do

why is aguas calientes so hated

At the end of the train to Machu Picchu is Aguas Calientes. This town, named after its hot springs, does not have a good reputation among travel guides.

“[U]nplanned tourist development and perpetual construction makes this one of the ugliest, most exploitative towns you’ll run across anywhere in Peru,” says Lonely Planet.

Wikivoyage reports, “Despite its magnificent setting, it’s not the most scenic town, owing to fast and ruthless development to support the huge influx of tourists.”

Based on all these comments, I kind of dreaded the two nights that I would be spending there.

I thought my eyeballs would melt from looking at Aguas Calientes town. But at the end of the trip, my eyeballs were intact. I even think that Aguas Calientes is much prettier than some of the Malaysian towns I’ve been to.

First impression of Aguas Calientes

First look of Aguas Calientes
First look of Aguas Calientes

When the train pulled into its station–well, just in the middle of the tracks and not really the station–I saw half-built buildings made up of concrete and wood. I thought to myself that if the whole place looks like this, then it’s really sad.

At the platform, a woman holding a whiteboard sign had the name of my hostel. I introduced myself but the woman–who doesn’t look past 24–seemed worried. I guessed that no one told her that a Chinese person was coming.

Aguas Calientes market at night
Aguas Calientes market at night

When she had gathered all the guests, we trekked through the “craft market”. The market is made up of tens of stalls all selling the same woolen hat, gloves and souvenirs.

The woman from our guest house had a cloth baggage on her back like many of the local women. From the cloth, I could smell soured milk so I wondered if she was carrying a baby inside.

My hostel was a rather sad place. It was a shop house divided into many rooms. My room had a window that looked out into a corridor and the place smelled musty.

I got out of the hostel quickly and explored the town.

Real exploration of Aguas Calientes

Mountains surrounding Aguas Calientes
Mountains surrounding Aguas Calientes

When I stepped out of my hostel, I was awed by the mountains that hugged the town. They towered the town and looked freshly green.

If you looked only at the mountains, Aguas Calientes is indeed a pretty town.

Away from town, the real river of Aguas Calientes was beautiful too. Sadly, part of the town where the river flowed had a smell of wet socks so the whole river might not be as clean as it looks.

River of Aguas Calientes
River of Aguas Calientes
In case of overflowing river
In case of overflowing river

The town is made up of a lot of stairs. Some of these stairs are flanked with tourist restaurants where waiters call out semi-aggressively while some have women shouting about “Masaji. Masaji.” (Perhaps I look Japanese so they use the Japanese pronounciation of massage.

Tourist street in Aguas Calientes
Tourist street in Aguas Calientes
Empty staircase in Aguas Calientes
Empty staircase in Aguas Calientes

I was surprised to find the football field. I expected the town to be void of activities in normal life, such as school and play, since tourism is such an important business in Aguas Calientes.

Football field in Aguas Calientes
Football field in Aguas Calientes

As Aguas Calientes is constantly underdevelopment–not unlike Dubai and Singapore–a lot of buildings were unfinished.

Developing Aguas Calientes
Developing Aguas Calientes

Murals in Aguas Calientes

One of the buildings’ wall had gorgeous murals.

Machu Picchu mural in Aguas Calientes
Machu Picchu mural in Aguas Calientes
Rain forest mural in Aguas Calientes
Rain forest mural in Aguas Calientes
Happy kids mural and the pathway in Aguas Calientes
Happy kids mural and the pathway in Aguas Calientes

Other fun thing in Aguas Calientes

Besides Machu Picchu, another interesting place in Aguas Calientes is the hot springs. But it’s kind of dirty if you go later in the day.

The best time to visit the hot springs is before 12 noon when the sun is at its strongest.

The market near the main square has a second floor with food stalls. They sell cheap (5 soles) meals!

Have you been to Aguas Calientes, how did you find it?

Sightseeing with a buddy in Cusco [YQrtw Day 110 Jul 29]

YQ at Inca Museum

Location: Cusco, Peru

Most of my first full day in Cusco was spent with Nana (not her real name) whom I met in Santiago. She came to Cusco from Bolivia and we arranged to meet up to go check out a few museums around the city.

As she had not had breakfast at the meeting time, I went off to the bus terminal to buy my tickets for tomorrow to Nazca. The price of the ticket had shot up by 40 soles (~S$20) compared to 2 hours before I bought them. That’s quite a jump as there were only about 5 seats left on that bus.

When I got back to the city center, Nana and I started our first museum visit: The Inca Museum.

The museum tells a bit about the Inca’s folklore as well as pots and potteries from many years ago. The entrance was 10 soles, good enough to spend 30 minutes to understand a bit about the history of the Inca. (Not that I remember a lot of them.)

Inca Museum courtyard
Inca Museum courtyard

Next stop was the Pre-Colombian Art Museum. This museum is better and more expensive at 20 soles. My favorite exhibit here was a necklace made out of seashells which looked like little roses.

Since both museums do not allow visitors to take photos, there weren’t a lot of photographic record of the day.

Even though I like visiting museums alone, having someone else to go with and “oooh and aaah” over interesting exhibits is quite fun.

After museums, it was about 3pm. Nana wanted to bring me to Inka Fusion which she said had very good lunch menus. However, it was a bit too late and the restaurant was closed so we head to a pizzeria instead.

We parted ways after lunch and said to meet up for pre-dinner coffee (actually, no-dinner coffee). We did eventually meet for cake and also for dinner with two of her friends.

The Asian Tax

At lunchtime, I talked to Nana about a situation I have at my budget hotel. I paid 40 soles (S$20) for a double bed single room with no private bathroom.

However, I overheard the receptionist old lady tell people who came in to ask about the price of the room that a no-bathroom room cost 20 soles. This means that I am paying double for the normal price even though I asked politely in Spanish.

My Asian face is a give away that I am not from this part of the world and people think it’s alright to charge me extra “Asian Tax”.

Nana was indignant and said I should cause a scene and demand to pay the regular price.

Good thing about my situation is that although I have paid 40 soles for yesterday, tonight’s stay has not been paid yet. My plan is to tell the receptionist at checkout that single rooms without bathrooms are 20 soles so I have paid fully for my room.

Wish me luck!

Have you encountered the Asian Tax before?

Staying in Peruvian budget hotels in Ollantaytambo, Cusco [YQrtw Day 110 Jul 28]

le rose

Location: Ollantaytambo -> Cusco, Peru

My train from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo arrived at about 9:40pm so I made reservations with a hospedaje (Peruvian budget hotel) in Ollantaytambo.

I made the booking on the first day in Ollantaytambo. At first I booked a night on the 25th. Then I realized it was supposed to be the 26th so I walked over to change the date. Then after I changed my return date of my train, I had to make adjustments at the hospedaje again.

On the night of 27th, I arrived and was sent to a three-bed room along with my suitcase which I left there. The room was very nice for its 30 soles price (S$15).

Le Rose Hospedaje is on the right
Le Rose Hospedaje is on the right

In the morning, at checkout, the younger employee called out to the older (but still not that old) employee. The latter talked about “propina” which I did not understand. In the end, he said “money”, pointing to my luggage.

I gathered that they want a storage fee. When I asked how much, the younger employee’s eyes shone brightly and she whispered, “10 soles.” I thought that was a ridiculous price for 2 nights of storage and turned to the other employee who said, “5 soles.”

I took out a 10 soles bill and they looked around for change. I wasn’t very pleased when I found out that “propina” meant tip. Just because I am foreign doesn’t mean I print money at home and I can freely distribute my wealth around.

Still, I left my stuff at the hospedaje and went for breakfast at my favorite cafe in Ollantaytambo–Heart Cafe. I enjoyed their menu of the day and their lattes.

Then I collected my luggage and got on a mini bus to Cusco.

Back in Cusco

This is my third time in Cusco but it’s also my first time staying here. Previously, I was here for my transfer to Ollantaytambo and to buy my tickets to Machu Picchu.

Fortunately, the bus stopped in San Francisco square instead of the bus stop for Ollantaytambo collectivos. San Francisco square has quite a few accommodation choices.

I dragged my suitcase up a slope, checked out one hostel I’ve seen featured on Hostelworld.com. The price of a dorm room was cheap US$10 (S/ 28) and a private room was US$40 (S/ 112).

I walked out with my stuff since I was not willing to pay US$40 for a room in Peru. I found another hostel but it did not have any private rooms available.

The I spotted a dodgy little place with a sign. I walked in and saw a courtyard. A middle aged lady walked out. I told her that I have no reservation and if she had a room.

Indeed, she did have a room right behind the counter. It was a private room “with Wifi” but no private bathroom.

The price was a reasonable S/ 40 (US$14). I decided to take the room because it was a very good deal.

The toilet and bathroom are built separately in the courtyard. Using them in the morning isn’t a problem but at night, when the temperature drops down to 7 degrees Celsius, taking a shower is an ordeal.

Still, I can’t complain about a US$14 room. I’ll even stay an extra night (or more if I do not go to Nazca).

Finally, the day I visit Machu Picchu [YQrtw Day 109 Jul 27]

YQ at Machu Picchu

Location: Aguas Calientes -> Ollantaytambo, Peru

To be honest, I don’t really know why I want to visit Machu Picchu. The main reason is probably that it has been so hyped up. I don’t mind

Many web sites that I read recommend heading to the bus station slightly before 5am to catch the first few buses that leave at 5:30am so that you can catch the sunrise.

Initially, I planned to do the same and set my alarm for 4:45am. When the time came and my iPhone blasted out my alarm, I went over to my phone and changed the time to an hour later.

I didn’t fully fall back into sleep but when I checked my phone, it was 5:55am. I checked my alarm and realized that I had set it to 5:45pm.

I got up and got ready. I checked out of the hotel around 7am and looked for food because I planned to stay in Machu Picchu well past lunchtime and I need a good breakfast.

My favorite French pastry place was open. I ordered a cafe con leche and two pastries. This should sustain me for a long while.

One way bus ticket to Machu Picchu

I bought a one-way bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. The queue was long when I got there but the line moved quite efficiently. The bus was on a very windy uphill road and took about 20 minutes to reach the entrance.

Almost at the end of the ride, I saw Machu Picchu Inca town and Huayana Picchu–the two most photographed parts of the thing we know as Machu Picchu. It looked like tiny Lego blocks from afar.

Entering Machu Picchu

Underwhelming Machu Picchu ticket
Underwhelming Machu Picchu ticket

After the ticket check where the person scans your ticket and checks your ID name against your ticket name, you are free to enter.

Map of Machu Picchu Inca city
Map of Machu Picchu Inca city

I asked the guards after the entrance if it is true that there is a Machu Picchu stamp. They told me that the stamping starts at 9am. So take note and don’t leave too early.

There is a little walk from the entrance to the spot where most people take their Machu Picchu phototos.

When I first saw the real Machu Picchu, I thought, “Wow. It looks like the postcards. But a bit smaller than I imagined.” It wasn’t until I was inside the city walls that I felt tiny.

I'll bet everyone has at least 20 of this photo in their camera.
I’ll bet everyone has at least 20 of this photo in their camera.
Dreamy version of Machu Picchu
Dreamy version of Machu Picchu

I took many photos showing the same angle of the site. All of them look the same but I feel obliged to take as many as I can. This resulted in a dead battery at the end of the day.

My ticket allows me to climb Machu Picchu mountain. I tried walking the first 30 steps of the mountain and gave up. I’d see the site from ground level. Thank you very much.

Reading on Machu Picchu

After some phototaking, I thought it was time to head into the city but when I was walking in the direction, I found a very nice nook in the wall with two large stones. I sat on the stone and found it really comfortable. It also gave me a good view of the mountain and the ancient city.

Then I took out my Kindle and started reading. It was a very good place to read because the sun had not reached that particular spot yet. From time to time, I look up from my book and stare out at the sight below–so that people don’t think that I’m crazy for reading in Machu Picchu.

First reading spot at Machu Picchu is along the path leading to the city.
First reading spot at Machu Picchu is along the path leading to the city.

Tourists passed by my reading spot. Only one Indian man commented joyfully about my “comfy nook” while the others just ignore me or look with curiosity.

I only moved when the sunlight crept into my lap. My knees were hot and soon my head would be too so I moved. The reading session took a little more than an hour but it was a fun session.

By that time, it was past 11am and I noticed that the tour groups have descended in drones. While there were a lot of people, it wasn’t crazy crowded like some of the sights in China. Maybe it’s because of the 2,500 daily limit.

Llama photo opp

Machu Picchu Inca city has a few llamas on its premise, grazing on the grass or running away from humans. (I even spotted llama poo in one of the buildings, so I imagined that they roam around freely when humans are not around.)

There was a baby llama that was still drinking milk from its mom. Some of the llamas gave up running away and allowed humans to pose with them.

Baby llama flaunting no eating rule in Machu Picchu.
Baby llama flaunting no eating rule in Machu Picchu.

One of the llamas even had a flew and was sneezing from time to time, giving everyone nearby a jump. Llamas are not quite as cute as alpacas but they are still fun animals to touch.

After walking a while, I found another good reading spot. I saw this from across the amphitheatre, the spot is against the wall and is very shady when the sun is still in the east.

View of reading spot number 2
View of reading spot number 2

While reading, I snuck bites of my takeaway pain au chocolate, wiped tears from my eyes using my jacket and eavesdropped on tour guides nearby.

It was another hour later when I finished the book. By that time, the sun was higher up in the sky and sunlight reached my shoes. It was time to leave to continue my tour.

Most impressive part of Machu Picchu

Some people say that they feel very spiritual when they head to Machu Picchu. I usually roll my eyes when I hear these comments. What does spirituality feel like?

It’s a bit funny how people find it spiritual when everything was man-made. They should feel more in awe of those who built the site and not some invisible energy.

I was most impressed with the Inca terraces. From the postcard photos of Machu Picchu, you don’t get to see how huge the terraces are but they are really really impressive.

Inca terraces
Inca terraces
Inca terrace from above
Inca terrace from above

[Motivational sentence about tree growing among stones.]
[Motivational sentence about tree growing among stones.]
I took a path leading up to the terrace and ended up at the entrance. I decided that 1:30pm was a good time to end my visit since I’ve been in the compound for about 5 hours.

Don't forget the Machu Picchu stamp for your passport.
Don’t forget the Machu Picchu stamp for your passport.

The queue to the bus back to town was horribly long but I queued with everybody else.

Back in town, I had 6 hours to kill before my train so I ate, read and ate.

Do you plan to visit Machu Picchu?

Hot springs at Aguas Calientes [YQrtw Day 108 Jul 26]

Aguas Calientes hot springs

Location: Aguas Calientes, Peru

Aguas Calientes is the town where the train to Machu Picchu stops. The name means “hot water” or “hot springs”. I have been in love with hot springs ever since Japan. Even though we have hot springs in Sabah but those are a bit lame as the water is piped into little pools.

Problem is, the hot springs in Aguas Calientes has pretty bad reviews and the photos of the pools do not look appealing. My sister said the photo of the pools remind her of the hot springs at home.

Still, I had a whole day in Aguas Calientes with no plans so I decided to give the place a go. After moving my things from one budget hotel to another at 9:30am, I brought my shampoo, sarong cloth and camera to the hot springs.

To reach the Baños Termales (Thermal Bathes), walk with your back to the train station. You will likely see signposts along the way. Keep to the right where the slopes and stores are (not along the river) since the entrance is there.

You can rent bathing suits and towels before going to the Aguas Calientes hot springs
You can rent bathing suits and towels before going to the Aguas Calientes hot springs

Before the entrance, there are shops renting towels and bathing suits. I’m not sure about the price but you can get them there if you need.

Entrance fee is 10 soles but you will need to keep your things in the lockers which costs 1 sole. The lockers are further in where the pools are.

Ticket counter for Aguas Calientes hot springs
Ticket counter for Aguas Calientes hot springs

There is a slight walk from the entrance to the pools. I haven’t been in good shape so I was huffing and puffing halfway up the slope.

The sight of the pools surprised me since I thought there was more walking. From above, the pools looked like they contained dirty murky brown water. Eek.

Pools at Aguas Calientes hot spring
Pools at Aguas Calientes hot spring

Lounge at Aguas Calientes hot spring

After changing into my swimwear (this is not Japan so no naked onsens, people!), I brought my plastic bag of shampoo, camera and watch to the pools.

At first I checked out the “showers” near the entrance, the water was freezing. Someone above shouted at me and pointed to the other side of the pools.

As I didn’t wear my glasses, I had to walk up to the old man, tell him I cannot see without my glasses and followed his instructions to go to the other side where there is hot water.

Tiger head vomits hot mineral water
Tiger head vomits hot mineral water

A local lady was washing herself at one of the three tiger head spouts. I turned on one of them and laughed when hot water came gushing out.

The lady said, “Agua thermal!” to tell me that it was hot spring water. I nodded and started washing myself. After the shampooing, I checked out the pools.

I found one of the medium-sized pools empty so I got in. The water wasn’t as scalding hot as Japanese hot springs. It was about body temperature.

Dirty-looking water at Aguas Calientes hot springs
Dirty-looking water at Aguas Calientes hot springs

I realized that the dirty-looking water wasn’t filled with grime from Inca Trail hikers as I originally thought. Instead, it could have been from the minerals in the spring water. Or at least I hope it was.

The pool is too deep to sit in but too shallow to wade so I half-stood by the faucet with hot spring water, allowing the water to trickle down my face. (It was actually too hot to do that but I want spring water on my face so I did it anyway.)

From the pool, you can see the mountains surrounding the little valley. It’s quite beautiful from there.

The floors of the pools are filled with pebbles which I think are to prevent people from slipping on the smooth tiles. Or it could be for a natural foot massage.

Then I felt that the water was too chilly and shifted to one of the larger pools. I was in it until the sun was a little too high in the sky and I could not find a shade.

I moved to the kiddie pool which allowed me to sit on the floor and soak my whole body.

There was one old lady, some kids and a young mother (I assume) in the kiddie pool with me. The kids splashed playfully while I continued my soak.

Saving butterfly from drowning

The sun was quite high up now that the only shade was from the bridge leading to the entrance. I scooted a little to the left to allow another old ladies to sit with her friend.

Then I saw a butterfly flutter past. It was flying prettily and did a dip into the water and proceeded to drown.

I let out a yelp and went to scoop it out of the water. The butterfly was safe but it clung to my finger, not willing to fly even when I blew at it.

The old ladies were curious and chattered to me. I nodded stupidly and showed them the butterfly. One of the kids joined us and later caused the butterfly to drown again.

I rescued the poor thing but it still would not fly away. In the end, I decided that I had enough of the pools and it was time to go for a nap. (I woke up at 4:30am today because of Machu Picchu hiking people.)

This was the butterfly I saved.
This was the butterfly I saved.

After I took photos of the butterfly, I nudged my pruney finger against the walls and it flew away. Bye bye butterfly!

At first I thought that I could come for another bath in the evening after Machu Picchu on Saturday. However, I was shivering really badly even under the sun so I thought it would be best if I did not do it in the evening when the temperature is even lower.

Cold water shower at Aguas Calientes hot springs
Cold water shower at Aguas Calientes hot springs
Themal baths at Aguas Calientes
Themal baths at Aguas Calientes

Do you like soaking in hot springs? Where’s the best place to do it?

#FoodFriday Lactose-less milk in Peru

lactose-less milk-001

Did you know that you can suddenly get lactose intolerance even though you were OK with dairy products for the longest time?

That happened to my friend D. She was the biggest fan of dairy (Milk! Cheese! Cakes! Milk tea!) so she’s now missing out on a lot of her favorite food.

That’s why I instantly thought of D when I saw lactose-less milk in an Arequipa supermarket. I even snuck a photo on my phone.

Even though there’s high lactose intolerance among Asians, I’ve not seen such a product in my life. I wonder if there’s a market for it in high-income countries such as Singapore and Japan. (Please do steal my business idea.)

0% lactose milk taste test

The lactose-less milk was available in a 1 liter plastic bag or in small boxes. I bought the 400g box because I don’t think I was able to finish a liter in a week.

0% lactose milk
0% lactose milk

0% lactose*
Evaporated milk
Zero discomfort, easy to digest
400g

I then discovered that the box was actually evaporated milk and not whole milk. Oh well, I can add it into my coffee in the morning. (I also added equal parts of water to the milk to make it whole milk.)

Color of lactose-less evaporate milk is the same as regular evaporated milk. I was expecting something paler.
Color of lactose-less evaporate milk is the same as regular evaporated milk. I was expecting something paler.

One morning, I used the lactose-less milk in my coffee instead of the regular milk the hostel provides.

Surprisingly, it tasted the same!

Kopi C suitable for the lactose intolerants
Kopi C suitable for the lactose intolerants

I also made a submarino with the lactose less milk. (The how-to will  I’m glad to report that the submarino did not cause “symptoms of lactose intolerance”.

Someone really should start a lactose-less milk business in Singapore.

More from the lactose-less milk box

Nutritional label of lactose-less milk
Nutritional label of lactose-less milk

On left:

0% lactose*

Address bla bla bla

Ingredients: Low fat milk, Vitamins (A, C and D), stabilizers (E-399, E-407) and lactase enzyme

*(LDD) Detection limit 0.01g/ml

Suitable for celiacs

100% cow milk, low fat, ultra pasturized and homogenized

Would you invest in my lactose-free milk business?

Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu [YQrtw Day 107 Jul 25]

Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu

Location: Ollantaytambo -> Aguas Calientes, Peru

Finally, it’s the day I take the train to Machu Picchu. Or at least that’s what it says on my train ticket.

In reality, the train to “Machu Picchu” stops at a little town called Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters). This town is deeply hated by travel guidebooks and sites, I’ll talk more about it tomorrow since today it’s all about my train ride.

My train to Machu Picchu starts at the town of Ollantaytambo. I spent two nights there but you can easily access the town from Cusco in not more than 2 hours’ time.

Ollantaytambo train station
Ollantaytambo train station

Ollantaytambo’s train station is at the very end of the road where the two ticket counters are. Along the road, there were stalls selling woollen things and even food.

There was a group of school children who were about to take the train when I was at the station. They were quite prepared as most of them each had a roll of blanket strapped to their bag.

All aboard the Peru Rail train!

The train ticket says everyone needs to be at the station half an hour before the train leaves. They let passengers into the train area well before that.

The guards checked everyone’s ticket with their identification so remember to have your passport in hand.

After the ticket check, I tried getting onto a carriage. The lady in the carriage asked me, “What do you want?” and then “You cannot come in yet. Thank you.” when I told her that I was looking for my seat.

I got out of the carriage with a cheery “You’re welcome!” and stood by the side of the train. At least the view was good.

View of mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo
View of mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo

Soon, the Peru Rail employees started putting out the carriage letters. It was strange since the order was A-C-B. Anyway, I got onto my carriage after the carriage attendant checked my ticket and my passport once more.

Machu Picchu carriages are not in alphabetical order
Machu Picchu carriages are not in alphabetical order

The Expedition carriage is the cheapest ticket for foreigners. The carriage has windows on the roof so passengers can admire the sky and tall mountains and get a bit of sun bathing.

Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Seats on Expedition class train to Machu Picchu
Seats on Expedition class train to Machu Picchu
See the sky from your seat
See the sky from your seat
Seat number on Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Seat number on Expedition train to Machu Picchu

My A-1 seat was right next to the window, in front of the food preparation center. The person beside me never came so I had the two seats to myself.

Drink station on Expedition class train
Drink station on Expedition class train

I also checked out the toilet before anyone else came on board. It was the largest train toilet I’ve ever seen. I think it can fit 5 people standing up.

Huge toilet!!
Huge toilet!!

While we were waiting for the train to leave, I looked outside and saw several passengers and a Peru Rail employee on the phone, huddled in a circle. It seems to me that there were problems with the train tickets. One of the passengers had a large backpack with a hiking stick.

I tried to imagine if that was me and that Peru Rail told me that there were problems with my ticket and that I cannot go to Machu Picchu. It felt like yesterday all over again so I stopped imagining.

When the train pulled out of the station, the people-with-ticket-problems did not get on board. I hope they eventually reached Machu Picchu.

Coffee or tea?

About 30 minutes into the journey, we were served one drink and one snack. I got myself a black coffee and a muffin.

One drink and a snack is included in the Expedition train ticket
One drink and a snack is included in the Expedition train ticket

While the Peru Rail employees were serving the drinks, I realized that the guys were a lot taller than the average Peruvians. I really wanted to ask them if height was included in the job requirement, as do flight attendants.

Back to the train ride. The view along the way was great but the sun was so bright that I kept my face hidded next to the wall to avoid sun face.

View from Expedition train to Machu Picchu
View from Expedition train to Machu Picchu
Mountain view (not Google's address)
Mountain view (not Google’s address)
Not the Swiss Alps but beautiful in their own way
Not the Swiss Alps but beautiful in their own way

On the far right of the was a snow-capped mountain, which I found out is called Veronica, while on the right were grass-patched mountains. We even passed the Inca Trail, as a tour guide for the group sitting in front of me announced.

The lady who sat on the seat across mine was Taiwanese. She gave me a lot of information on sights in Peru, allowing me to narrow down what I want to do these last 10 days.

The train ride ended quite soon and we got into the concrete town of Aguas Calientes. My hostel sent someone to pick everyone up which was a good thing since the tiny paths can be quite confusing.

The "ugly" town of Aguas Calientes
The “ugly” town of Aguas Calientes

As promised, I’ll write more about Aguas Calientes tomorrow.