As we were relaxing in Aguas Calientes after our last day of trekking, getting ready to visit Machu Picchu the next day, our guide Leo informed us that there was going to be a general train strike, and no trains would be running. Trouble!
Later on, we learned that the train companies were going to try to get things running again after the end of the business day, when the strike would be over, but that nothing would be certain. We had to make it to the station by midday to hear whatever announcement would be made. The unfortunate consequence was that we’d have to cut our visit to Machu Picchu somewhat short in order to make it back in time. On the plus side, the fact that no trains were arriving in Aguas Calientes meant that the ruins were much emptier in the afternoon than is usually the case.
Not wanting to miss our chance to get back to Cusco, we showed up at the duly appointed time, only to be told to wait around and that something would be said a few hours later. The station by this time was packed with tourists, all trying to get out. Some were rather desperate, having international flights the next day. We were at least lucky that our original train wasn’t supposed to depart until 9:30 PM, so we weren’t actually delayed yet. The people who had morning trains had already been there all day.
It eventually became clear that trains would depart, and that they’d load starting with the morning passengers and moving through the later scheduled departures. It was clear who the wealthy travelers were, as they just sat in their hotels, which had runners at the station letting them know when they had to come down to board their train. The rest of us just set up camp on the floor and tried to rest, or read.
It was interesting to see the sense of entitlement and western frustration that a lot people were exhibiting. After seeing this kind of thing before, Alina and I just sort of shrugged it off and went with it. The only annoying thing was that we were told to wait around all evening even though we were originally on the last train out. Supposedly it was possible that they’d get everyone on something earlier.
Well, in the end, they didn’t. We left Aguas Calientes exactly when we were supposed to, having waited about 6 hours at the station which we could have spent up at Machu Picchu, or enjoying a congratulatory dinner. Still, we made it back without incident.
I have to really hand it to PeruRail. In a nasty situation that was not their fault at all (it was a government workers strike), they handled things extremely well, and managed to get about 14 trains worth of tourists out on only 3 or so special, after hours trains. It was pretty funny though, to constantly hear their slogan whenever the announcement was being made for which trains would now be boarding; “PeruRail: Creating Unforgettable Journeys”.