The signature experience at the spa is the Andean Ritual, where coca leaves are placed all over key points on the body followed by a clay wrap. This is said to harmonize body and mind before moving on to a deep-tissue oil massage.
The next morning, we attempt to get up at 5 A.M. for the sunrise as our train finishes its trip to Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest lake. Sadly, we just miss it, but the colors of the morning sky dazzle us as we sit down in the Observation Car. Here, we’re greeted with freshly squeezed juice as we lean over the wrought-iron guardrails taking in the scenery. The view feels almost like a Monet painting with the vibrant bursts of color that nature produces.
Soon afterward, we arrive in Puno at the Lake Titicaca Station, where curious townspeople smile and wave as we pull in. We learn that the rails being used were reclaimed thanks to a partnership between Belmond and PeruRail. So, while the artery was closed for repairs, many businesses and locals set-up shop, often on top of the tracks. Many still have their stores within inches of the train. So, when the Andean Explorer pulls in once or twice a week, they slowly move to the side.
This early-morning bustle around the tracks is how I’ve always pictured a great train journey. It is a stark juxtaposition though. As we eat fresh fruits and freshly made omelets, sipping our teas, and discussing the day’s plans, we can’t help but remain grounded and humbled by our surroundings. We also take comfort knowing that Belmond has given a lot back to the communities here. Not only in tourist dollars (you’ll be shopping at a lot of local vendors and not at the mass-produced markets in the big cities), but also by purchasing as much food as possible from sustainable sources in the area and running
local educational programs.
When we step off the train, there is a bounty of stalls with a colorful, carnival style. For the average tourist, the marina is chaotic even early in the morning. The sun is hotter here, we remark to one another, as it is still just beginning its climb into the sky, illuminating the vastness of water ahead of us.
Men and women approach us to take their boats to the floating islands; women dressed in traditional outfits try to pose with us for photos; and vendors hawk water, candies, and other comestibles. We’re lucky to be following our activities director and local guide who bring us aboard a two-floor schooner complete with water and snacks.