How have I managed to reach the ripe old age of 62 without knowing about probably one of the best experiences in the world? The Hiram Bingham Train ride and the visit to the famous and stunningly beautiful old Inca city of Machu Picchu should be on everyone’s ‘itinerary of unforgettable experiences that I must have before I die’ list. At this stage I want to invent a new word – triconic, which in my dictionary would be characterised as three iconic consecutive experiences in one.
The adventure begins at Poroy station, about a 20 minute drive from the beautiful city of Cuzco, high in the Peruvian Andes. After an airport style check-in we were greeted with a refreshing glass of Bucks Fizz and entertained by Peruvian musicians and dancers. It was at this point that we first sighted the elegant and stylish Hiram Bingham train, named after the American explorer who first discovered the lost Inca city in 1912. We were then whisked away to the elegant opulence of our dining carriage which reminded us of times gone by, when style and comfort were more important than just arriving quickly at a destination; where the enjoyment of the journey was the defining emotion of the journey. The train then meandered through some of the most beautiful and stunning landscapes in the world at a pace where everyone can enjoy the journey rather than having scenery just flash by. Having enjoyed the complimentary pisco sours or Peruvian wine in the observation car, we were then invited to partake in the most sumptuous five star dining experience very aptly named `Degustación del Paisaje` or `Tasting the Landscape.` This was our second iconic experience and we enjoyed outstanding cuisine which included: Trucha de Wuayllabamba, Lamb Cannelloni of the Valley and Cacao Organico which was Chocolate Heaven. All of this was accompanied by an elegant Montes Chardonnay and a fruity full bodied Montes Cabernet Sauvignon both of which beautifully complemented the meal
We just didn’t want this journey to end so it was both a disappointment and an excitement as the train chugged into Agua Caliente at the end of the first part of our adventure. At this point I really have to compliment the staff of the Hiram Bingham as they guided and cared for us with efficiency and compassion whilst we boarded the waiting bus to ferry us up to the Citadel of Machu Picchu itself. Absolutely everything was catered for, including umbrellas, cold drinks and even tickets to the Citadel. The bus journey up the mountain through pristine rain forest was an exciting experience, particularly watching how the buses navigate past each other on the narrow steep road.
They say that your eyes are the windows to your soul. If this is the case then when you first gaze upon the wonders of Machu Picchu your soul is assaulted by the sheer breathtaking beauty and wonder of one of the modern 7 wonders of the world. This was the third and most spectacular iconic experience and for both me and my wife something that we will never forget. We were accompanied through this amazing maze of history by a very knowledgeable guide who really brought the experience alive by painting a picture of times gone by; Machu Picchu`s birth, construction and Hiram Bingham`s discovery of this marvellous achievement of our forefathers. It was such a humbling experience as we wandered along the pathways and through the rooms. The sense of history and awe was overpowering. Around every corner there was something else to marvel upon and to make this a truly amazing and unique experience. The people who built Machu Picchu described it as `Hanacpacha` which translated means a place where heaven merges with this world. It was obviously built by people who understood the synergy between the environment and man`s development and the place both inspires and overwhelms you with the skills of the Incas. The hours that we spent in Machu Picchu literally flew by and when we finally arrived at the Sanctuary Lodge hotel for a wonderful complimentary tea we knew that we had experienced something truly unforgettable and life changing.
The bus trip back down to the Hiram Bingham train and the opportunity to spend some time wandering through the myriad of art markets and experience the cacophony of Aguas Caliente enhanced the trip even further.
The journey back to Cusco was unforgettable! We have never had a party on a train before but this is exactly what happened. The bar and observation car at the rear of the train was transformed by the music and singing of the wonderful resident band who created a brilliant atmosphere with their blend of Peruvian and western music.
After a number of complimentary pisco sours and Peruvian wines we were again guided back to our buffet car to enjoy a sumptuous fine dining meal which included: smoked duck with eucalyptus leaves corn comfiture and crispy chilli skin, Maras` Beef with Quillabamba peanuts and myrtle tartar and then finally apple custard parfait with a mandarin and ginger reduction. It was hard to believe that such high quality fine dining could be produced on a moving train!
Our biggest disappointment was when we arrived back in Poroy. We simply did not want this day to end. The Hiram Bingham train journey is something that we will never forget and something that everyone should aspire to at some point in their life. This Orient Express experience was OUTSTANDING in every single way. The journey, the meals and the visit to Machu Picchu were all amazingly good and a life changing event for us – truly triconic!
Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. is a luxury hotel company and sophisticated adventure travel operator which seeks to deliver memorable experiences that are the ultimate expression of each destination’s authentic culture.
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