The trip Cusco – Machupicchu begins at the San Pedro (St. Peter) train station located on Kaskaparo street opposite the Central Market.
The tourist train departs at 6:15 a.m. In order to assure a seat on the train (or autovagon), the ticket should be bought a day in advance.
In addition to the tourist train there is also a iocal train that leaves San Pedro everyday at 7:30 a.m., and the ticket costs approximated US $ 5.00 or 15 soles.. Tourists are welcome on the local train. Again, the ticket must be bought in advance. Passangers who travel by the tourist train and pian to overnight in Machupicchu or Aguas Calientes, should buy a one-way ticket. The return trip ticket must be bought on the day of return at the Aguas Calientes station as all train tickets are good tor one day only. However, it was stated lately, that if one, who wishes to overnight, informs the personnel at the train station (Aguas Calientes) permission may be given to use a round—trip ticket.
The trip takes just about three and a half hours, unless the train brea down in route; this happens once in a while. After leaving the station the train begins a series of switchbacks to climb out of the saucerlike bowl in which Cusco is situated and cross the mountain tops. Occasionally tourists think that the engineer is slightly demented, first going forward, then backing up, stopping, then starting again. Be sure that he is not. He’s merely following the zigzag pattern of the railroad tracks.
While ascending one can have an impressive panorama view of Cusco. Upon passing the second zigzag, one of the four Inca roads specificaly the Quito road, comes into view. It is a cobblestone road in its entire length, as are the other three royal Inca roads.
At the summit of the mountain you are ascending, the Quito road can be seen for a good distance as well as the Cusco – Lima highway that later becomes part of the Panamerican Highway. The trip Cusco to Lima via Panamerican takes tow full days at the least and covers a distance of 1,170 kilometers.
Being now at the summit of the mountain which is called “El Arco”, the remains of a Spanish aqueduct which brought water to Cusco from lake Piuray can be note. From this point on the train begins its descent to Puente Ruinas (last train stop), which is at 6,000 ft.
Once past “El Arco”, the train enters the province of Anta, a vast plateau which is used for agriculture and levistock. The name Anta comes from the Quechua word “anti” meaning copper, as the Mountains of the area contain copper, although not in great quantities. On the right, stands the Cachimayo fertilizer plant and be road to Chinchero, as interesting tourist attraction. This extensive pampa of Anta was the site of the ferocious battle between the young Inca Ripac who later became emperor Wiracocha, and the belligerent tribe of natives called Chancas. According to tradition, the Chancas were repelled in their efforts to seige Cusco by means of an ingenious strategy. As the legend goes, hundreds if not thousands of Inca soldiers hid in threnches lightly covered with earth. At the decisive moment, they jumped out and confronted the enemy. The surprised Chancas, who believed then, that the sun god had converted the stones into soldiers, surrendered themselves inmediately. They were subsequentely slaughtered mercilessly.
For that reason the area is also called “Yahuar Pampa” or the bloody field”. Likewise, this pampa was the site of the battle of Jaquijahuana in which the Spanish conquistador Hernando Pizarro was defeated by Pedro de la Gasca. On crossing the plateau of Anta, the train stops at the Izcuchaca station. Izcuchaca in the native language means “limestone bridge” as the village boasts a 16th Spanish built bridge.
Once past the plateau of Anta, we come to the small town of Huarocondo which stands close to the head of the valley of the Huarocondo or Pomatales River, down which the railroad descends to meet the Urubamba valley at the train station of Pachar.
This valley was sacred to the Incas for its pleasant climate and fertile soil. Here potatoes, corn, lima beans, as well as fruits such as peaches, prunes, strawberries, grapes, apples, pears, etc. are grown.
From Pachar on, you will follow the Vilcanota River or Upper Urubamba to Machupicchu. The Vilcanota was held in awe by the Incas because during the rainy season its water level rises considerably, causing floods and erosion, and becoming quite dangerous. This river is one of the principal tributaries of the Amazon. It originates at “Caylloma – Arequipa.
Going towards from the Pachar station, you pass a formidable work of Inca engineering in the form of a megalithic bridge. The central pillar is protected from the constant threat of the river’s flow by two immense rocks placed directly in front of it, thus acting as wave breakers. The Incas understood that these granite rocks would divide the water into two streams, thus reducing the water pressure on the center pillar. It can also be noted that the river is channeled by the existence of lateral walls on both banks, which date pack to Incan times.
Next is the Ollanta station. This area is famous for the remains of the Ollantaitambo fortress which can be seen on the right. This fortress was built by the Inca Pachacutec in the 15th Century to defend the entrance to the Sacred Valley. From Ollanta on, a series of beautiful snowcapped mountains grace the way.
passing Ollantaitambo, after crossing the Urubamba, the railroad enters the beginnings of a gorge which grows ever narrower and deeper as you pass Chillca. Traces of Inca construction become mors frequent and the vegetation grows more prolific. You are leaving the high lands and entering the mountainous fringes of the Amazon known locally as the “evebrow of the jungle”.
At kilometer 88, the small town of Corihuayrachina marks the beginning of the famous Inca road which leads to the archaeological ruins of Runku Racav, Phuyo Pata Marca and Winay Wayna, ending at Machupicchu.
Travel along the 30 kilometer trail is dangerous in some places because of its narrowness. The trip takes between 3 and 4 days. All along this route exist caves, stairways, farming terraces, watch towers, temples and remains of rooms, all Incan construction. The view is specially impressive due to the snow- covered peaks and thick vegetation.
As the train continues its descent of the valley you catch glimpses of Mt. La Veronica (18,865ft.), to the right, the ruins of Choquesuysuy which is above the Vilcanota River, and also a dam used for the hydroelectric scheme.
Next comes Aguas Calientes (Hot Springs), a ramshackle little town with a frontier feel to it that has grown up as a “dormitory” for families of workers employed at Machupicchu. After another one and half kilometers the train pulls into Puente Ruinas, the Machupicchu train station.
Before 1998 the local or Indian train will continue another 61 kilometers to the town of Quillabamba, capital of the province