Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, the train’s steady rhythm is only broken up with the calls from Peru’s locals who see the Belmond Andean Explorer pass by their fields and towns once a week. I’m standing in the observation car, drinking a traditional chilcano that’s as sweet as the pollen-filled air from the fields of early-summer blooms. Rivers stretch from the snow-packed mountains like tentacles carving up the landscape and women in brightly colored outfits bend to collect the chilly waters while their sidekick alpaca takes a sip, only to be momentarily startled by the sound of the train.
“Another drink, Señor Pedro?” Our bartender asks, the sun reflecting on his shiny-buttoned Belmond uniform. We’re standing in the train’s caboose, taking in the breathtaking views high in the Andean Mountains. A young, just-married Indonesian couple put out their cigarettes, and a man comes out almost instantaneously to replace the ashtray, but he first hands a young San Francisco couple two freshly made pisco sours.
The dark-blue train with its name, Belmond Andean Explorer, emblazoned on its side, purrs around a bend, as the front continues its climb up into the Andes. Smoke puffs almost cartoon-like from the train’s stack into a blue sky that’s partially blocked by mountains. And just when our senses are overwhelmed with the richness of Peru’s sights, smells, and sounds, we’re ushered into the dining room for a feast.
This is the first deluxe overnight train service in South America. It transports travelers to the luxury of yesteryear with its meals, service, and activities, but it also doesn’t ignore the heart of Peru. The country’s cultural and environmental vibrancy can be seen and appreciated throughout the journey. The Belmond Andean Explorer traverses the Peruvian Andes on various itineraries. My partner, Jason, and I choose the Andean Plains and Islands of Discovery journey that takes us along one of the highest train routes in the world. We depart from Arequipa, explore the waters of Lake Titicaca, and eventually end our journey in Cusco.