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Full Circle

Day 189: Cuzco to Machu Picchu

Cuzco, Peru 
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On the streets of Cuzco.
Michael Palin - Full CircleHuddled next door to the domed colonial church of San Pedro is the station for Machu Picchu. Everyone is kept off the platform until the train rolls in. First class passengers behind smoked glass and second class behind iron-barred gates. In this way, though the waiting rooms may be filthy, they can keep the platform immaculately clean. It has a fresh coat of orange paint and hanging baskets. The Canadian-built diesel engine, which is to pull the train to Quillabamba, 133 kilometres away is, beneath its coat of oil stains and smears, also painted orange.

As we leave the station vendors appear from nowhere. The compartment is suddenly full of people selling tea, chocolates, cold drinks, tamales, and trinkets. One man has a fistful of watches and an array of torches and Swiss Army knive inside his jacket. It's all a bit premature, as the engine expires on the first gradient and we slide slowly back into the station. After one further attempt, the locomotive is changed and we tackle the steep hill and the salesmen once again. The haul out of Cuzco is so steep that the train has to zig-zag up it. Along a slope, wait, change points, roll back along the mountain and up the slope the other side, brake, change points, forward up the next slope, slide back and so on all the way up until we are at 12,000 feet and taking a last look down from the slums on the mountainside to the elegant squares and fine stone buildings of the handsome city below.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 189
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Cuzco
  • Book page no: 253

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