The plan: 8:30 train to Ollantaytambo where we’d get picked up, taken to pick up our luggage, then driven back to Cusco where we’d have lunch and an afternoon tour of Sacsayhuamán.

Reality: delays were encountered. Our train pulled out of the station, chugged five minutes, stopped. Sat. Ambled back slowly toward the station, connected to another engine car, slowly started chugging back up. Stopped. Stopped some more. Knocking on the door; an engineer came in, opened an electrical panel,

peered at it a long time, closed it, walked back out onto the tracks, disappearing forever from our lives. We were asked to relocate to the new car, something about “traction”. We started moving again, stopped again.

In all it was about two hours sitting there. I’m from Puerto Rico, to me this is normal. What I found delightful, though, is everyone else’s reaction: acceptance. Beautiful, calm, friendly acceptance. Games. Conversation. Friendliness. Little information was available — what was wrong? how long would we be there? what is the meaning of life? — yet tensions ran low. It could’ve gone very differently. Yay humans.

Rush to Cusco

It wasn’t quite so stressless for Fernando our guide. We were stuck in a deep valley, no cell service, no contact with the outside world. He had people to contact, plans to rearrange. On the ride back, as we gained intermittent cell coverage, we would find moments to call and text ahead to reshuffle our transportation and arrangements. He never lost his good humor, but it must’ve been an ordeal.

Our van awaited us in Ollantaytambo. We briefly lost two group members, found them, lost and found one more, then set off to Cusco where our ETA was now after 2pm. Some of us asked about the possibility of skipping lunch so we could still visit Sacsayhuamán… but it was not to be. “Get used to disappointment”; the Dread Pirate Roberts’s words are a helpful daily reminder. This, though, was a big one. The meal was contracted; it was a fancy restaurant; some may have asked for reimbursement; who knows? I do know that I’ll remember my first and only visit to Sacsayhuamán long after the (admittedly delicious) quinoa risotto has faded from memory.

Lunch finished at 4:30. We dispersed with the agreement to meet again at 8:00 for dinner. (Yes, eight). Ginger and I walked Cusco on our own, revisiting the chocolate museum, buying some chocolates to bring home; stopping at a grocery store for water and some cheeses to bring home (more on that later); Ginger bought some earrings; and we enjoyed our last walk through a lovely, friendly city.

Even though 8pm is bedtime, we decided to join the group for dinner and to stick it through. We didn’t eat much, that’s way too late at night to eat, but we shared smiles and stories and final hugs.