The train trip from Cusco to the lost city of the Incas Machu Picchu is usually made for the vast majority of tourists in a single day, with a very early departure – four or five in the morning and depending of the tour your are embarking, you could be returning the same day around late at night. On a single day, It can become exhausting trip, full of emotions. I would suggest to do it on a 2 days, still the service by train will be the same but overall the journey will be more relaxed.
The 3,500 meters above sea level of Cusco, the difficult Andean geography that goes into the high jungle of Peru mean that the Cusco train trips from Poroy station and Machu Picchu normally take just over three hours and half hours to travel the 130 km.
The final destination of the train journey in the foothills of the mountain that houses the citadel of Machu Picchu is Aguas Calientes town. With a simple division you can calculate the slow average speed of the train, which happily allows you to enjoy with a very slow speed the transition of landscapes. From the scarce high Andean flora to the crowded and dense vegetation of the high forest seems spectacular specially when the train vagons are fitted with big windows including the ceiling. This source of decoration do make a such contrast of the whole nature passing around you like a movie.
The trains that depart from Cusco are concentrated between 5 and 7 in the morning to arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes, on the shores of the mountain that houses Machu Picchu, around 10 or 11 in the morning. From there you have to take a bus that will take us down a zigzagging slope to the top of the mountain that hid since the Spanish conquest and for four centuries, the lost city of the Incas. After this adventure of trains and buses, after about five hours from the departure in Cusco, one can start the visit to Machu Picchu.
Once in Machu Picchu, the three or four hours that one can spend touring the Inca city is one in a life experience and it worthy but also exhausting. On a heat day the temperature can exceeds 30 degrees, getting time to time a refreshing breeze from the high forest at about 2,400 meters, which can smooth the tiredness that is brought by the trip. Considering that nature can be playful rains can appear in the upper jungle where this ancient city is located and leave without permission from anyone.
The full experience
When someone has saw only by poster, magazine or other media, the citadel of Machu Picchu and begins the journey on train, it can get leave you a mix of feelings. In one way, you want to feel unique ( of course all we do ) meanwhile visiting the paths and want to avoid too many tourists. In another way you enjoy seeing other people like you having a good time. Once you get on board of the train to Machu Picchu some of this feelings will part of your agenda.
Once you are ready to undertake the return on the train at five or six in the afternoon, it is foreseeable that the whole sort of emotions during the beginning of your trip would leave you afterwards with a physical tiredness. However, you will be able to experience countless of surprises and small details of a well-designed and neatly executed service experience, which made the trip back into a magnificent memorable journey.
Everything is planned with careful detail: a train with large windows and a comfortable temperature, Andean instrumental background music, a table exquisitely well placed, adorned with the fabrics and the characteristic colours of the Peruvian sierra, make the prelude to a meal with products typical of the Peruvian Andes, such as aguaymanto and quinoa.
The kindness, courtesy and education of the people in charge of the service in each car would surprise you. Of course, they speak in Spanish or English as needed. There was never a “no” for any of the simple requests that the passengers made.
After a dinner that matched the Andean music and decoration, and after picking up the service, the same people in charge of the wagons dressed in the typical costumes of various regional parties in southern Peru, interacting and performing dances with the passengers who transmit part of the history, identity and cultural heritage. The dances are accompanied by the explanations that contextualise and describe them. We had to know the Saqra, the typical dance that accompanies the festival of the Virgen del Carmen in Paucartambo, where the devils seek to ingratiate themselves with the guests at the party.
The dance full of spontaneity, joy and energy that characterizes these parties, spreads enthusiasm to the tired passengers, motivating them to join the celebrations dancing with the dancers in full train.
After the euphoria of the dances, which also transmit part of the cultural heritage of the Andean south, our hosts perform a parade with the finest typical alpaca garments, and meanwhile they narrate about the origin and quality of the fibers that the make up This walk with typical clothes replaces the traditional “sales cart”. Each garment has been explained in its origin, use, texture, quality, and then of course these can be acquired by travelers in addition to other items such as music or Andean literature and especially related to the visit to Machu Picchu. We will call this ‘storyselling’, a concept that we will explain later.
Finally, after just over three hours and late at night, the train arrives at the station of Poroy having converted a slow and perhaps tedious return trip for a few exhausted tourists in an interactive experience that complements and adds cultural value to the trip made and that will be recorded in your memories.
But ‘wow’ experiences often plan, manage, save and deliver some surprise element not expected or expected to close the experience with a flourish. When we think that the trip has ended and we have to disembark from the train, our hosts, who have been the first to go down, receive us to say goodbye once more dressed in the typical dance costumes and the music of the party of the Virgen del Carmen, thanking her passengers for having chosen them.
hBeyond the curtains
It is possible to glimpse in the people who render the services the joy with which they carry out their work. This joy is contagious and is undoubtedly a sign of a relaxed and pleasant work environment. It seems that all our hosts have enjoyed their work, and that is how they made us feel.
This design of experiences from a client’s perspective, happen as they have been planned, they must have behind them a series of elements and processes that are designed and allow these experiences develop and deliver. On this context, we could say, “there is no better improvisation than that which is perfectly well learned”. Hours of training should be behind in the explanations of this magnificent staging.
Let’s start by defining some very basic elements. An adequate recruitment process, followed by staff training, should be the basis. This undoubtedly includes all the modern elements that we use today to train people who have to deliver services, including cutting edge topics such as storytelling; the ‘storyselling’ and the dramatization of the experiences that the client must live, and which in this example are revealed.
The result of all this experiences, are a result of a solid organizational culture and marketing that put the customer in the center; that is, all elements of internal marketing aligned to design and, above all, enable to transmit of the cultural elements of the organization, which in turn employees must transfer to the client. You could say, if we want to build customer loyalty, we must start by building employee loyalty because it doesn’t happen in the other way around. We can pretend that it works out what does not work within the organization.
We are talking about the most important factors, the construction of a very solid organizational culture centered on the client and the design of processes and the customer journey, which identify the main values on which to define how to work and build the experiences that are then They lead to the staging and develop consistently and even with a dose of spontaneity.
As can be seen, the difference is not in the train trip, in the wagons, in the music or in the menu of the meal, all of them tangible elements of the service offer. The difference is in the service experience that combines the tangible elements with the intangibles in a single process. It is not a price issue. Designing and delivering an exceptional service “does not cost more”, but customers are usually willing to pay more for it as various investigations show by analyzing “the profitability of the experience.”
Is good to know in Peru there are companies such as the rail trail company who are developing world class experiences like the one described, also taking advantage of the elements of identity and culture that make us unique.