Vlog by Florence: see below.
Alarm clock at 5am for our 7am train to Huancayo. It’s a 14-hour journey!
We take 2 Uber’s to go to the train station (located near the Plaza de Armas), where we must be at 6am.
The ‘process’ for the boarding is well organized. There’s even a band that plays for the departure of this famous (now monthly) Ferrocaril Andino. Since it’s a tourist train, there are many… tourists. The good news though is that I booked seats in the cheaper ‘classic’ class and not in the ‘tourist’ class (which has a private “open” wagon, without windows). Even for this classic class, it’s still more than 600 Euro for the 5 of us…; someone told me that it was the most expensive train in the world per km, which might be true. In our carriage, there is plenty of free space and there are only 5 other tourists. I was afraid since when I booked online I could only get 5 ‘aisle’ seats but they probably add a wagon later on; we basically occupy 12 seats for our family… Cool!
This lovely Ferrocarril Central Andino is a must for the train enthusiasts the world over (and I’m part of them…). It’s a fabulous run, reaching 4,829m and passing La Galera station, which is one of the world’s highest passenger railway stations (the Tibetans are the record holders, followed by the Bolivians). This train operates on a single-gauge track. The track has 69 tunnels, 56 bridges and 6 zigzags.
We start by going through Lima, through poor districts. We then go up steadily. The scenery is not really impressive; we see many of the typical (ugly) Andean towns. We can see the road most of the time.
This train is so much similar to the one that Tintin and Milou (Snowy) take in the ‘Temple du Soleil’ (‘Prisoners of the Sun’) and we are in the last wagon, which does not presage anything good if we believe the comic strip. … (see picture below if you don’t remember).
We reach La Galera in less than 6 hours. There’s snow on the mountains nearby. Such a climb (more than 4,500 m) is such a short time is harsh for the head and for the organism. Jules suffers the most but we all feel the altitude sickness when we arrive at La Galera. It’s the only stop of the whole 14-houor trip! We then start to descent and it’s going much better except for Jules (mainly) and for me. There’s a nurse on board, with oxygen. She had given us pills for the altitude sickness but it doesn’t seem very efficient…
It’s cold and the weather is not great. I’m no longer jealous of the open wagon of the tourist class.
We see also many industrial sites of extraction of minerals. Mining is Peru’s first source of income, and the central highlands accounts for a sizable chunk of it. But with the affluence that the extraction of zinc, lead, silver, copper and gold brings – Peru ranks within the world’s top four exporters for each – questions concerning the distribution of that wealth and the detriment that extraction brings to the environment are raised. And Peru’s major mining centers are some of the poorest and most polluted places in the country, if not the continent.
Jules is very sick (he slept the whole afternoon) and I don’t feel well either. The non-stop klaxon of the locomotive doesn’t help…
We arrive in Huancayo (3250m) around 8:30pm. Lucho, from the ‘La Casa de la Abuela’ (our hostel) is waiting for us. He puts us in 2 taxis to the hostel. He said that the family room for the 5 of us is not available and we are thus given a room with 4 single beds and a room with a double bed. The double bed is not very wide and Ludivine sleeps in it for the first night.
We go with Lucho to eat at his restaurant, La Cabaña, on foot. We are tired, especially the kids. We order a familiar pizza and Isabelle takes an asparagus soup. Nice place.
We come back to the hostel and go quickly to bed (it’s already later than 10pm). It’s cold (as cold inside the hostel as outside in fact); there are 3 heavy blankets on each bed.
Jules still doesn’t feel well.