Tag Archives: Train

All a-bored!

Friday 12 August 2022 – We’re now aboard Silver Muse and underway. This is the view from our cabin’s balcony right now (it has been like that ever since we left Seward); appropriately we are in Disenchantment Bay.  (It improves – keep reading.)

We’re not missing anything right now, therefore this  is a fantastic opportunity to bring you up to date with how everything went yesterday.

This being a holiday, we were up earlier than would normally be the case at home. OK, the jetlag helped. Thing is, we needed to hand our luggage over to the nice Silversea people, conveniently located at a desk in the hotel lobby, between 8am and 9am, which means 8am ‘coz we always want to give ourselves maximum contingency for cock-ups. As well as handing over the suitcases, we had to prove that we were free of the Dreaded Lurgy and that we had ‘fessed up to the Canadian authorities about our imminent arrival in a week’s time. Jane, as always, had done a mistressful job of marshalling the necessary paperwork, which left the Silversea folks almost as impressed as I was.

It was our lot to travel by rail down to Seward, where the boat would leave. We actually had no particular idea about whether this was better or worse as an option than traveling by coach, but, whatever, we had to be ready to be picked up at 1215.  This gave me the opportunity to finish writing about our day in Anchorage on Wednesday, which had been sufficiently eventful that it took two days to write it up.

The rail trip to Seward starts, somewhat counterintuitively, from the airport. There are no scheduled trains from Anchorage to Seward, so this was a Silversea Special and it departed from the rail depot at the airport (presumably needed because of the massive logistical significance of Anchorage as a hub). A coach took us to the airport, where we joined a queue to prove, once again, that we had the paperwork, then another queue to get a boarding pass for the train and our cabin keys. There was a holding pen whilst we waited to board the train

and then we were called by carriage number.  They called carriage 555 first, and we were carriage 554, so held ourselves in readiness to sprint forward. Then they called….carriage 553. No matter, they hadn’t forgotten us and we were next to take the walk down the platform.

The carriage had big observation windows

and for the journey we had the pleasure of the company of the two ladies bottom right, Rebecca and her mother Margaret. Notice that there’s nowhere to put bags, so my super-heavyweight backpack had to be stashed somewhere else.

The carriage was run by a chap called Christian, who did the best he could to gee everyone up with tales of possible sightings of moose and eagles and bears and that, but his news that the train trip was going to take four and a half “ish” hours came as a bit of a surprise. The weather conditions also quite literally dampened expectations of fabulous and interesting views.

Christian started serving people from the far end of the carriage and it became clear that it would take him some time to work his way up to our end.  Happily, we discovered that we were next to the buffet car, which was rather like any British Rail buffet car except the lady serving behind the counter knew how to mix cocktails.  We satisfied ourselves with a hat trick of G&Ts before we were able to get a salad via Christian’s service, and that nicely lubricated the conversation with Rebecca and Margaret as we ground our way slowly along.

The most interesting challenge, photographically, was seeking a gap among the trees in order to get a photo.  The train might have been moving slowly, but the gaps between the trees seemed to flash right by.  I managed one glacier

and one lake

and that was about it (no moose or eagles or bears), which meant that by the time we got to Seward we were beginning to feel rather bored with the whole process. I don’t know whether the coach option might have been swifter, but we were all glad to get to Seward, where the weather conditions (as forecast)

weren’t all that conducive to any further beautiful photography.  Scurrying from the train to the boat was actually a higher priority

and, naïve soul that I am, I was surprised at the size of the ship.

The boarding process was very smooth and it was soon clear that we were going to be very well looked after during our cruise.  Every cabin has a butler; ours is called Francis and he came and introduced himself and talked us through some of the information we’d need throughout our cruise.  We also found the launderette, which is a nice thing to have the use of. These things are important, you know.

The rest of the day was taken up with the inevitable and important safety briefing and dinner, which we took in a restaurant called Atlantide.

Great food, nice surroundings and efficient and courteous service. After dinner, we thought it would be good to stretch our legs, so we walked around the ship to orientate ourselves.  It’s a big ship in our experience, but quite small in the general cruising context – a maximum of 596 guests if full. Relatively small as it is, it’s still an 11-story building  so there was a lot to take in.

We learned from one steward (Simon, German) that there are 437 guests on this cruise and somewhere around 360 crew, so the service level is near one-to-one; also that even if the numbers had been higher post-pandemic, the ship would not have been full, as they have to reserve some cabins for quarantine purposes. The pandemic’s consequences continue to affect the hospitality industry, even after all this time.

The strains of the day began to tell, and even the prospect of further free booze wasn’t enough to keep us going, so we called it a day at this point and got our heads down in order to prepare for a day at sea containing the prospect of seeing the Hubbard Glacier at reasonably close range from the ship. We therefore hoped for decent weather, not something that we’d seen thus far.  However…..

….the skies have cleared, making today’s activity a bit more promising.  I’ll write about that in the next post, so do come back and find out more, won’t you?


Trains (well, train)….

18th April 2018

[Short read but lots of pictures alert]

All too soon our day of leisure in Cusco was over and the relentless tourism resumed with an 0500 alarm set for the next day, all so we could go and catch a train. Not just any old train, though – we would have got up later for that – but the Titicaca train, operated, as is the Machu Picchu service we travelled, by PeruRail, and thus sharing many of the same characteristics – friendly staff, drinks and food on board and a fashion show to try to extract a few extra tourist dollars. However, the journey we were undertaking was a significant one – over 10 hours to cover the 384 kilometres from Cusco across the mountains to Puno, on the shores of Lake, you guessed it, Titicaca. (Starting altitude 3,354m above sea level, finishing at 3,828m and, in the middle, getting up as high as 4,319m – over 14,000 feet, and within a very short spit of 2.7 miles high. By way of comparison, the cabin pressure you experience on a typical jet flight is equivalent to an altitude of 2,000 – 2,500m).

If one has to spend 10 hours on a train going over very significant mountainous terrain, it’s reassuring to know that a full meal (and bar) service is provided, as is an observation car.

Prompt at 0710 we started the journey and it was immediately clear that we were in for some great scenery.

The Titicaca Train rounds a bend

Landscape seen on the Titicaca Train

It was also nice to see the locals waving a friendly greeting as the train went by.

as well as some who were simply gettiing on with the daily grind of, for example, subsistence farming of quinoa,

A farmer with her crop of red quinoa

or llamas

Llamas roaming the plain

which may well have this as their home.

After a short while, the entertainment started in the bar.

and it became clear that the repertoire of traditional Peruvian music stopped at around El Condor Paso (yes, the tune immortalised by Simon and Garfunkel) and tunes such as Hotel California and Sweet Child of Mine were pressed into service – all with some skill and great verve. There was also a dancer

who had at least one costume change and who also got passengers involved in the fun.

And then it was time for the fashion show.

before we had a stop at the highest point, La Raya, where – goodness me! – there was a retail as well as a photo opportunity. My, what a surprise!

Retail opportunity at La Raya

The train stops at La Raya

Then lunch was served and we could all settle in to a nice siesta.

The scenery continued, of course

(the power of prayer clearly being insufficient to hold this church together)

Landscape seen on the Titicaca Train

and then we noticed a bit of a change in the landscape, from the absolutely ubiquitous terracing (e.g. above) to stone-walled corrals

perhaps indicative of a move out of the Inca influence and towards the Titicaca tribes, who it is thought were the first to people the land in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. But this was only temporary, and before too long we were back to terracing, so who knows?

As time moved on, the landscape flattened out and we passed all sorts of rural scenes: evidence of oat farming on quite a big scale;

as well as subsistence farming (this is quinoa)

Subsistence farming near Juliaca

and we’re not sure what this chap was carrying.

Adobe is a common building material

and we even saw a couple of flamingoes, something I had never expected.

And then….we hit the outskirts of the major town of the area, Juliaca (whence we shall fly en route home in a couple of days). It was, frankly, dispiriting, with a very scruffy industrial area outside the town

which gave way to an extraordinary scene – a market of sorts, bordering the railway, for what seemed like several kilometres into the town.

The Juliaca railside market
with stalls literally within centimetres of the train as it went by – and even….

…on the track itself! I’ve called it dispiriting, but I guess it’s just how life goes here, and people were calling out cheerily to the train as we went by; they didn’t seem dispirited.

From Juliaca to Puno is flat and uneventful, although you do start to see the incursion of Lake Titicaca as you go along.

The shores of Lake Titicaca in the late afternoon

The shores of Lake Titicaca in the late afternoon

From a brief conversation with a guide, I believe we’ll find out much more about this when we go out on the lake tomorrow. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out, won’t you?