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Riding the Hiram Bingham Orient-Express Train from Machu Picchu: Part 2

October 23, 2012 at 6:42 PM | by | ()

Talk about bucket list locations, Machu Picchu is up there (literally). The sacred Inca city high in the Andes mountains of Peru isn't an easy place to visit, but thousands head there every day for a glimpse at the archaeological site. Having just returned ourselves, all this week we'll give you the low-down on how to get to this high place.

The Jaunted Goes to Machu Picchu Series:

1. Flying into Cusco
2. Sorting out documents
3. Riding the Vistadome train
4. Riding the Hiram Bingham Orient-Express (Part 1 - the train)
5. Riding the Hiram Bingham Orient-Express (Part 2 - the dining & extras)

So you've been hiking Incan ruins all day, likely in the sun, and you've been fed finger sandwiches and teacakes until your stomach bulged...so the last thing you'd want to do is eat again, right? Wrong. The grueling daytrip of Cusco to Machu Picchu and back made us ravenous like no other and so, when it came time for a four-course meal and drinks onboard the Hiram Bingham Orient-Express train, "si" was the answer to every question asked by our waiter.

Si, keep the agua flowing (con gas, yummy).

Si, I'm having the steak.

Si, there's no way I'm skipping dessert.

Si si si after-dinner drinks in the bar car.

Presented in a leather binder with some paragraphs about the train itself, the menu for the evening is laid out course by course. Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, as you're on a moving train in the Incan outback), there's very little choice. An amuse bouche is followed by an appetizer, followed by a soup, followed by an entree (choose between two), followed by dessert, followed by a coffee or espresso and petit fours. Here is what our train served:

Appetizer: Duck ham with eucalyptus leaves essence, jam corn, crispy chili skin

Soup: Leek and potato emulsion with purple kiwicha, extra virgin olive oil, toronjil-lemon

Entree: Vegetables Pachamanca (roots, bulbs, leaves, organic black quinoa emulsion) OR Maras's Beef (Beef with root confit, peanuts from Quillabamba, white grape and myrtle tartar)

Dessert: Apple custard parfait with carrots and cocoa nibe, mandarin and ginger reduction

As for wine, there's was a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon offered complimentary and constantly refilled. For pickier palates, a wine list of full bottles lists bottles for an additional charge, ranging from $55 for an Argentinian white (Torrontes) to $100 for a Peruvian Cabernet. Even Moet & Chandon champagne can be had for $195. Other free alcohol includes champagne in the Aguas Calientes station departure lounge and Pisco Sours and more basic drinks in the bar car (we opted for a Cusqueña beer after having the Malbec through dinner).

The train journey, all four hours of it, does much to focus you onto the meal without the distraction of scenery. Service is attentive and always waiting with more wine. There is no rush to finish the food and the spacing of courses is leisurely without causing impatience. And, if the teatime at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge did fill you up, then you'll be happy to know that dinner doesn't just arrive after you leave the station. There is time to walk around the train, have an aperitif in the bar car, or perhaps look through the photos on your camera (as most people in our car ended up doing).

As we said in Part 1 of the Hiram Bingham review yesterday, the train makes all the right moves to get you into that warm and fuzzy, satiated sweet exhaustion that's usually betrayed by the appearance of the slightest smile.

When the Hiram Bingham finally does arrive back at Poroy Station outside Cusco, you'll slip into a taxi or waiting towncar and, 40 minutes after that, you'll slide into bed. The next morning's breakfast conversation topic is already set: who enjoyed a deeper sleep?

Disclosure: We rode the rails as a guest of Orient-Express, but all photos and opinions are completely our own.

{Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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