Our driver met us at the hotel at exactly the time the concierge at our hotel Palacio Del Inka, said he would be there to pick us up. The drive from Cusco to Poroy, where the station is located is roughly 30 min without traffic. After winding through the narrow road up and over the mountain between Cusco and Poroy, we arrived at Poroy Station just as another train heading to Machu Picchu was preparing to leave from the station. Since we were early, the station was not setup for Hiram Bingham passengers yet. As soon as the train on the platform left, the Hiram Bingham Train was backed into onto the platform. Both inside and outside of Poroy Station was prepared to receive arriving Hiram Bingham passengers.
A three person band played Peruvian music out in the parking lot of the station to greet arriving Hiram Bingham passengers, and inside the station, champagne was poured as a welcome beverage for the Hiram Bingham passengers before they boarded the train. There was also a bowl of another drink, which I did not have nor did I ask what it was. All three of us, decided to grab a glass of the champagne as our welcome drink. Checkin was simple. One of the Hiram Bingham Train crew member comes to your group, takes your ticket and brings it back to you once the crew have checked your group in. Since our outbound journey aboard the Hiram Bingham today has less than 19 passengers (exact number I don’t remember), checkin was done quickly.
Once the Hiram Bingham Train is ready for boarding, a crew member, will come and personally escort you to the train and show you to your table. We borrowed three umbrellas from our hotel due to forecast for rain at Machu Picchu, which another member of the crew took and stowed it for us until we got to Aguas Calientes Station. After you have been shown to your table, you are free to get back off of the train and take pictures and watch the Peruvian dancing performance being performed on the platform exclusively for Hiram Bingham passengers.
The consist of the Hiram Bingham Train today is the engine, kitchen car, the dining car, and the bar car. The bar car on the Hiram Bingham has an open platform in the rear. During the peak season, extra cars are added to the Hiram Bingham consist accommodate higher passenger numbers. Everything aboard the Hiram Bingham looked and felt better and more luxurious than the Andean Explorer Train that we took from Puno to Cusco couple days earlier. Even the seats in the dining car felt more comfortable than the ones on the Andean Explorer. While the seats aboard the Hiram Bingham Train do not recline or have leg and foot rest like modern trains, I did not feel any discomfort at all sitting in my seat for the 4+ hour journey to Aguas Calientes Station.
The dining car, consists of tables for four on one side and tables for two on the other side. My parents and I had a four person table to ourselves. While in theory they could sit a fourth person traveling alone at our table to fill the empty seat, each party got their own private table which avoided the sometime awkwardness experienced dining aboard Amtrak’s dining cars which have a communal seating policy. The tables were already setup with white tablecloth, silverwares and glasswares. The menu for lunch was already on the table along with the wine list.
The Hiram Bingham Train started moving exactly on time. As we were departing, the band and the performers who earlier performed for the Hiram Bingham passengers, were on the platform waving the passengers and the train off. While I was browsing through the lunch menu and explaining all of the choices to my parents, a crew member stopped by to take our lunch order. I was ok with the smoked fish appetizer but my parents were not, so the crew member taking our order offered my parents sliced avocado salad as a substitute.
Once our orders for lunch were taken, we were welcomed to enjoy the drinks and music in the Hiram Binghams’s bar car. We headed over to the bar car where the band had already started playing. As soon as the waiter serving passengers in the bar car saw us, he rushed over to take our drink order. My dad ordered a Cusquena Beer while I ordered a pisco sour. In the bar car, drinks were not allowed to go empty. As soon as your glass was empty, another one was brought to you. Between the multiple pisco sours for me and multiple beers for my dad, we were both inebriated only an hour into the journey. I forget how many refills of pisco sour I received. Eventually, I had to just dump the drink off the platform, and pretend my glass was still full. I just could not drink anymore.
The three men band played lots of upbeat music in bar before lunch service. With so few people aboard the Hiram Bingham today and alcohol free flowing, passengers started to show their dance moves. Even my mom joined in with the maracas. Between the drinking and the live music, time flew by really quickly. At the bar, snack items were available for passengers who were hungry before lunch. Free snacks is another difference between the Andean Explorer Train and the Hiram Bingham Train. On the Andean Explorer Train, breakfast is for purchase but on the Hiram Bingham, food items such as croissants and fresh fruits are available for people who skipped breakfast before boarding.
The Hiram Bingham Train did make a stop at Ollantaytambo Station, but Ollantaytambo is not a scheduled stop. I am not sure what the stop at Ollantaytambo was for, but I took the opportunity to snap some pictures of Inca Rail DMU Train that was stopped on the track next to us. After about 10 min or so stopped at Ollantaytambo Station we began moving again.
Couple minutes after departing from Ollantaytambo Station, lunch service commenced. Wine and other beverages such as sodas and water came first, followed by assorted bread and truffled butter. The appetizers course followed shortly along with refills of bread for anyone who wanted it. My mom asked for more of the cheese puff pastry bread when the crew member with the bread refill came to our table. My appetizer was the smoked trout served with quinoa tabbouleh, mashed fava beans, and Andean mint oil emulsion. My parents both had the special sliced avocado salad substitute since the could not stomach smoked fish while they were still suffering from the effects of altitude sickness.
Next came the main course of grilled beef tenderloin, served with potato and vegetables. The beef was cooked perfectly medium rare, the way I had ordered. Dessert followed next after the main course plate was cleared from the table. Dessert was a corn cheesecake made from corn grown in the Sacred Valley. The lunch service was concluded with petite fours and coffee and tea. The green colored cookies are made from Coca leaves, which gives them the green color.
Once the lunch service concluded, the Hiram Bingham souvenir bags were distributed followed by bottled water for Hiram Bingham passengers to drink while walking around Machu Picchu. These are the same bags that my parents argued over wether to pick them up on the train or at the Lima Airport Peru Rail ticket kiosk, five days ago. On the train, Angela one of the tour guides, made announcements whenever we were going to pass by something important along the route.
Once we arrived in Aguas Calientes Station, Angela escorted us to the VIP waiting room reserved only for Hiram Bingham passengers. There, she gathered up all of the passengers and walked us to where we would board our bus that would take us up to Machu Picchu. Angela also distributed tickets for entering Machu Picchu which already had our names typed on them along with our passport number.
This concludes the first part of our journey to Machu Picchu. The Hiram Bingham Train has lived up to its reputation as a luxury train during the first half of the journey. I asked my mom if she thought the one way fare of $403.00 including taxes was worth it, to which she answered YES without any hesitation. My mom was at first skeptical of the $806.00 round trip price tag per person for the Hiram Bingham Train, but went along with my plan since it was a once in a lifetime event to ride on the Hiram Bingham. While the $403.00 price may seem high, that price includes, the train ride, the bus up to Machu Picchu, entrance to Machu Picchu, group tour with a tour guide, and afternoon tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. This is the ONE WAY price with the return journey costing another $403.00 for a grand total of $806.00 per person round trip. You do not have to return the same day on the Hiram Bingham. You can choose to stay in town for couple of days before returning or even choose to buy a oneway ticket on The Hiram Bingham Train and return on one of the other cheaper trains back to Poroy or Ollantaytambo.