Logistics I - Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Lodging
Most of the U.S. majors fly from the CONUS to Lima, Peru, our initial destination for this trip. From Lima to Cusco, the choice is one of local carriers. We chose a combination of American and LAN for our trip, traveling first by American to Miami and then on LAN from Miami through to Cusco.
Though we'd had a devil of an experience with American on our trip to Bolivia in 2007, they redeemed themselves in 2010, when we flew them to Santiago. However, from Santiago to Mendoza, we'd gotten a taste of LAN and it was a smooth, very smooth experience. That outfit even delayed a bag with class, so when given the opportunity to split the ticket among carriers with LAN as a player, we jumped at the opportunity. This was in spite of my cardinal rule not to split carriers but . . . that Chilean outfit really made an impression the year before.
The run from Lima to Cusco can be had on LAN or another Peruvian carrier but as noted we simply connected from our Lima flight to our Cusco flight. The only hassle is that the bags must clear customs in Lima and then be re-checked for the next leg to Cusco . . . regardless of carrier.
The cost of the flight from Denver to Cuzco was $1537 and we purchased just before the price jump associated with the Middle East's weekly revolts began in earnest. I suppose one could consider an overland link to Cuzco but we never gave that option any thought due to the distance, time constraints and minor additional cost. Just doesn't make sense.
Rail? Yes, believe it or not there are only two realistic ways to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco . . . hike in via the Inca Trail over a couple of days . . . or take the train from Cusco's Poroy station to the Aguas Calientes station at the base of the mountain upon which the ruins sit. Peru Rail runs the line and the trip takes about three hours. There are two classes of service, the earlier Vista Dome service and a later less cushy service that follows. There is also the "local" that is for Peruvians only, though I have a hunch that would be fun ride in and of itself.
We took the Vista Dome service which includes a snack service and other food for purchase. For hard core train fans, there is no vestibule riding, which is disappointing for those of that bent . . . you know who you are and what I am talking about. One of the neat parts of the trip is the use of a switchback to lose the elevation necessary at one point.
Our logistics provider provided van transportation to and from the airport, the train station and the trail head for our hike/trek. Our driver/facilitator was John and hecovered every angle that needed attention. He simply could not have provided better ground transportation for each and every part of our trip. Did I mention that he knows where the best Lomo Saltado can be found, can expedite small change early in the morning, and knows how to put the hustle into a program without cramping anyone's style. John was assited by Mariella who helped with the translations, connections and provided a informal tours at the various stops along our trip to and from trail heads. Two great folks.
Our Cusco lodging was at the Hotel Apu Huascaran . . . a great choice on the part of Carlos. The rooms were fine and we were greeted in the traditional manner with a cup of coca tea. I pity you folks who living in fear of a corporate UA as this a tradition in which there is no harm in partaking. For those unfmiliar with a cup of coca tea, there is no buzz or other discernable effect but for the lore (?) of the medicinal effect on the soroche. Living in Wyoming at 6000 feet and climbing many weekends a year to 14k has relieved me of the soroche threat but sitting in the hotel's sunny courtyard is certainly a pleasure regardless.
The Apu serves a good continental breakfast, inclusive of eggs cooked upon request. The beds have the substantial blankets I've come to expect in the andean highlands. The staff is super friendly and can make arrangements for various services as need be. There is a great restaurant serving Lomo just up the street and at the end of the day, you can wander up to deck on the top floor and take in the sunset over Cusco. Again a great pick by our logistics provider.