Since the information from g adventures was pretty vague and I had no time to do additional research of my own, I had no idea what to expect when I got dropped off at Peru Rail by my smiling driver. His knowledge of English pretty much matched my knowledge of Spanish so he just chattered away in Spanish and I tried to understand what was going on. He was a great driver though. He even took me on an extra excursion to take some photos of Puno and Lake Titicaca from a particularly scenic spot.
I was booked on the Andean Explorer. All I knew is that I had a 10 hour train journey ahead of me.
It all started very pleasantly. There was a nice waiting room and even a band playing traditional Peruvian music. Then we started boarding. Lunch was included and I wondered what and where it would be. My expectation was a trip to a dining car for an airline quality meal.
But – to my delight – I discovered the Andean Explorer was more akin to the Orient Express! (Some time later I would discover it was owned by Orient Express). I had my own table (where both lunch and afternoon tea would be served) complete with a flower in a vase and a romantic light fixture for later in the journey. I appreciate a romantic gesture – even if I am enjoying it alone 😉 <and travelling alone can result in wild surprises like the dinner I shared with my ranger Alex in the Ngorongoro Crater over a table laden with rose petals>
It was my own little sanctuary from which I could snap photos obsessively as the train meandered through the Andes. I had expected a 10 hour train journey to start to feel tedious – but the hours flew by. Partly because I was operating on a handful of hours of sleep so kept trying to nap.
But the train schedule was chock-a-block with passenger activities. I thought I could nap before lunch at 11:40… but – no – first we were offered beverages and I was a bit hungry so was served a hot chocolate that looked fancy enough the French woman sitting across from me wondered what it was. And it was also delicious I informed her.
Just as I finished my hot chocolate and closed my eyes, they announced complimentary pisco sours and live Peruvian music in the observation car. Drinking at 10am – it was like we were in the Caribbean! What was really impressive was the Europeans ordering extra drinks before noon 😉
The Pisco Sour was good (and free! :)) but the real highlight was the band and the chance to take photos in the open air. The mountains were incredible and I will have a hard time editing all the photos that I took but my obsession was to get a photo of a llama. Let me tell you – trying to get a good shot of a live animal from a moving train while vying for position with dozens of other tourists is exhausting (luckily there were more llamas in my future 🙂
The Peruvian music finished pretty much in time for lunch. I think I am going to look like a trout by the time I get home. But I know the word in Spanish – trucha. (and Enrique taught me how to pronounce it and remember – just think cha-cha-cha…)
The trucha on the train was very nice and, after consuming it and all the other delicious treats, there was finally time for a nap. There was an offer of more Pisco Sours, Peruvian music – and a fashion show – in the afternoon but I didn’t indulge. I was too busy keeping my eyes peeled for llamas! 😉
I did take time out from the llama watch to indulge in afternoon tea. I would recommend to any tea drinkers out there that you switch to coca tea while you are in Peru. The black tea you get served is generally disgusting but the coca tea is superb and a great way to expand the cultural experience.
It took a while to unload the luggage but that is the only thing I could fault PeruRail on. The service was entertaining and very professional. You had the spectacular views of the Andes (and random, elusive llamas), really good food, traditional music, free Pisco Sours… and the added entertainment of watching the crew serve all those meals and carry trays filled with a dozen wine glasses – on a moving train!!!
If trains are your thing, put the Andean Explorer on your wish list. One of the best train trips of my life – and I inherited a love for trains from my father. I am a connoisseur of the journey by train – and a new fan of PeruRail. I really wish my father was still alive. Despite his objections to travelling in places where they don’t speak English, I know he would love riding the rails in Peru and I would just bully him into accompanying me 🙂 My mother didn’t want to go to Paris. Now we’re planning a second anniversary trip to the city that first stole my heart…