Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Train to Puno: Piscos on the Orient Express - Nov 26

The train from Cuzco to Puno was, in so many ways, a ¨trip¨. Unlike the train to Machu Pichu, which is pretty utilitarian, the Puno train is deluxe. In fact, it is an old Orient Express train that they refurbished for this trip. Mahogany paneling, brass lamps, linen tablecloths... the works.

There is also an observation car on the back, and as we rambled down the tracks many villagers waved and shouted greetings. Then again, most of them spoke Quechua or Aymara, so they could also have been yelling ¨get the hell out of our back yards, Gringos¨. And I don´t really understand the universal hand signals they greeted us with. Fortunately, they were also smiling, so I think the natives really were friendly.

Peru Rail tried to keep us entertained during the 10 hour trip, with various local bands, fashion shows, and even a class in how to make the perfect Pisco Sour. After the demo, they asked for a volunteer to try to make one. Of course, yours truly was the first to jump up and volunteer. I figured that at the vary least I was going to get a free drink out of this (ever the economiser). Of course, my Pisco Sour was perfect... they didn´t know about my many years working as a bartender!

There was one stop along the way, at about 14,000 feet, for the entertainment to change and the natives given a chance to earn some shekels. Little did they realize that Karen had honed her bargaining skills in Asia... and nobody bargains like the Chinese! Once she figured out what she wanted, she just waited until we were being literally shoved back onto the train (knowing there wouldn´t be another tourist along for three days) and then gave them her final price. She got the best deal on the train!

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