Friday, January 02, 2015

Pre-Christmas Road Trip, Part Five: Riding the Rails

With the Lake Titicaca adventure behind us, it was time to make our return home to the Sacred Valley to do some laundry. It used to be that the only way to travel between Cusco and Puno was on the famous Andean Rail line, extending all the way from Puno to near the base of Machu Picchu. A road has since been built to connect the two cities, but the train service remains as a tourist option. Mel really wanted to give the girls their first actual train experience but, at a price much higher than the more popular bus option, I was against the idea. Melissa and I had ridden many, many filthy old trains across Europe and Thailand, and I was picturing a long day of rattling down the rail in some uncomfortable second hand Euro-reject trying to keep the girls from strangling each other. Given the cheaper option of the luxury bus ride that had previously proven itself quite comfy and adequate, it took some coaxing to persuade this champion cheapskate to take the train.

But, hats off to Melissa! Little did I know that she had landed us in the lap of luxury for the day! Who cares that our clothes needed washing and we smelled like vagrants? We were hanging with rich tourists in plush antique opulence! It was all I could do to keep my pinkie extended and my thumb out of my nose, but we somehow managed to look high class.
I was expecting the train folks to throw us a cold plastic-wrapped box lunch, but the food service ended up being a fine dining affair, menu and all. Notice from the photo that we were being waited on so frequently that Lola started sleeping through meal times.We even saw the high class folks drinking wine and cocktails! And, having no clue how to parent properly without the Utah-required Zion Curtain to do the job for us, we were forced to explain to our children that evil people drink alcohol and that we, on the other hand, don't drink in front of other Mormons. Ah, where would we be without the Utah Legislature? Bless their hearts. I'll move on.

The train even had a chic lounge car for us to kick back together and...

...Enjoy the show! Another great opportunity to listen to some fantastic traditional Andean music. The musician in front is playing a charango, which is a super cool ten-stringed instrument that evolved from the Spanish-imported viola hundreds of years ago.
(It sounds a little like a mandolin.)

I wish that this video file were smaller, or that I knew how to get it under 100mb, because these guys were really good. On the other hand, if you haven't heard El Condor Pasa by now, let me know and we'll post another clip when the occasion presents these parts they play it every ten minutes!
As if a great concert wasn't enough, we also got another dose of traditional Peruvian dancing! Well, we were in a moving train, so I don't know that we could consider it an actual dance. More like a shuffle around the train car. But her boot heels were uber-high and her costume was really tall and shiny, so we were totally entertained!

The girls spend much of the balance of the train ride coloring, listening to music, or in screen-mode. Hopefully they got some school work done, although I have my doubts.

With the girls otherwise distracted by their technology, Melissa and I took advantage of the rare opportunity to have an grown-up discussion. This time away sure has been a great way to reconnect.

Puno sits on the great Altiplano, a huge, high, plain at the base of the even higher Andes range. To get back to Cusco, we had to pass through some really cool mountain valleys, one of which was the trip's one designated whistle stop. It was good to be able to stretch our legs and check it out. I had my fingers crossed that I might see a snowflake, but no such luck. Another day, perhaps.

Riding through the mountains got me scheming about our next backcountry adventure. 

And I can't help thinking that NHP might be contemplating her next river trip.
I absolutely love this photo.

My huge thanks to Melissa for insisting that we spend our last day of this trip riding the rails. It really was a special experience, and it wouldn't have happened without her thoughtfulness and foresight. I married way out of my league.


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