From Puno to Cusco we rode the 10 hour train The Andean Explorer. Considered one of the best train journeys of the world, it’s easy to see why; the journey was an experience in luxury surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. After arriving at the station and checkign in, we were ushered one by one to our seats by one of our many attendants. The first thing we noticed was the luxury seating. More like a restaurant or dining car, each seat was plush, and each table was covered in linen adorned by a single rose and an antique looking lamp. Shortly after leaving promptly at 8am, we were visited by our maitre d’ who informed us that our pleasure was his utmost concern and explained the service schedule for the day:
10am Pisco Sours were served in the observatory car at the rear of the four car train accompanied by live music and dancing.
10:30am muesli with yogurt and fruit with tea or coffee
12pm lunch: choice of salad or soup as an appetizer, then choice of chicken, trout or pasta for the main followed by cheesecake for dessert. One glass of compimentary wine per person.
1pm we had a 10 minute stop to visit a local market and church at the halfway point of our journey.
3pm happy hour (two for one drinks in the dining car accompanied by a lesson in how to make Pisco Sours, more live music and a fashion show (we didn’t go – the music was too much for us the first time and you’re essentially trapped in the observatory car until the show is over – we learned our lesson the first time).
4pm afternoon tea: bellini to start followed by small bites of savoury and sweet offerings along with our black tea.
By the time we reached our destination around 6:30pm we were well fed, relaxed and felt like we had stepped back in time if only for 10 hours, having enjoyed the luxury and attentive service of yesteryear. Le sigh. We had also just spent a full day passively drinking in the scenery of the Andes – it’s rolling hills, snowcapped mountain peaks, and most fun of all, passing through small villages or passing by farmers’ fields where we saw Peruvians in their element at markets or in the fields and little kids would run out to wave hello.
Off to our hotel (where they pump extra oxygen into every room to help travellers acclimate to the altitude, letting us sleep better) and to dinner, where we passed through the main square full of music, dancing and a parade. Unbeknownst to us we had planned to visit Cusco during their biggest festival of the year – a one week festival celebrating the anniversary of the town, which coincides with winter solstice. Lucky us:)