I am literally in total hell right now. I am sitting in a hotel room in Aguas Calientes, battling what I assume is a sinus infection complicated by a fantastic case of altitude sickness. All of this is accompanied by this really awful elementary school band, complete with super heavy bass drum, playing “Happy Birthday” on Melodicas over and over under the hotel window. For what seems like days. Occasionally, they are joined by singing children.
In reality it has been three hours. The only respite has been a different marching band that came through the town an hour ago behind what I can only describe as a drag queen funeral. This consisted of what appeared to be half of the town fronted by guys in wigs and capes leading a white, petal strewn coffin. From our room it looked like a Twinkie with sprinkles. The new marching band was playing a horrible version of “El Condor Pasa” [which is apparently the unofficial song of Peru]. To add to the joy, all of this “music” is punctuated by the non-stop construction across the road. All we can see them doing is filling large bags with sand. Somehow that involves several power saws, lots of yelling and a very loud Peruvian radio station. When will it end?
Oh, and I forgot about the roosters who live in the tree across the street. Also super fun at 3AM.
But it can get worse. We paid a visit this evening to the emergency clinic. I’ve got to be in pretty bad shape to see a doctor. I’ve got to be three steps from dead to do so in a place like Aguas Calientes. I assumed I had a cold and altitude sickness, but the doctor and the clinic were completely on top of things. Apparently I have a pretty wicked case of Bronchitis. At least that means I should be able to make it to Machu Picchu and then Cusco instead of being medi-vaced to sea level. Yay.
Aguas Calientes is not somewhere you want to be stuck for longer than a quick bite or a cocktail. If you asked someone from Phuket, Thailand, to create a Peruvian Disneyland, it would be current day Agua Calientes. Modern, in a Peruvian way, congested with tourists and vendors and people exhorting you to sample the food or buy the product. The city has exploded into a congested mix of locals and tourists with one souvenir shop, hotel, and restaurant after another. It is tacky and expensive with crappy internet connections and only exists to service people who want to see Machu Picchu. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone in Timberland hikers, quick dry tactical pants and a Patagonia down jacket. For some reason, we are here two nights. Part poor train connections, part timing and partially because I am sick and this is as good a place as any to let the antibiotics kick in.
To experience a part of town still filled with locals walk down Calle Wakanki any evening where the cultural center and large field play host to activities from volleyball and soccer to political rallies to concerts.
On the bright side, many restaurants have inviting decor with small outdoor seating areas. The food is not as bad as the travel books say but it is seriously overpriced, much like Disneyland.