Aguas Calientes is true.
Construction-dense and comprised of, essentially, three corridors–the riverside train tracks, the river and the hotel-slash-dinner avenue–Graham and I exit the train station–but, not before drooling over the Old World splendor of the Hiram Bingham cars–through an obligatory walk past souvenir hell, for it is the only way out, and into the Vegas-esque craze that is Aguas Calientes with its neon signs, bright lights and pushy servers.
After finding our hotel–and, that, friends, is a whole ‘nother story–we figure that all there is left to do is pound the wobbly pavement in discovery of this gaudy little treasure of a town and embrace the craze, starting with a big brew and drive-by hello to Pachacuti, the big daddy of Inca deities, who, like Santa Clause, makes multiple appearances at once, including his nightly paparazzi session in Cusco.
Then, it’s time for another brew while we wait for an hour while tomorrow’s guide never shows–thereby prompting the whole “shit hit the fan” scenario from before where we call up our gal from Hotel Girasole to make sure homeboy arrives at 9:00, not 9:05, for our rap session–and finally, we brave the super touristy and settle on a place where the server tucks a marmoset into his collar.
Ricardo is his name, a totally cute new world monkey, and he is a vocal little critter, happy as a clam to catch a ride off his daddy’s neck as he literally runs from table to table, sidekick Ricardo braving the passing wind and stares.
And, then, reminding us that we elect to hike Machu Picchu on the holy of holy weekends, the Easter procession blazes by in a fraction of the time as Arequipa’s, just slightly smaller scale.