The village of Aguas Calientes is the terminus of the rail line that runs through the valley of the Urubamba River from the regional capitol Cusco, Peru. The mysterious, hallowed Inca ruin, Machu Picchu, is located on a peak several miles above the river, accessible by bus from the end of the train tracks. Machu Picchu lives up to its UN designation as a World Heritage site, thoroughly worth the effort to reach it, whether on foot via the Inca Trail or by rail.
The town below seems scarcely a place of human habitation; rather it is a chaotic jumble of buildings where, as a friend remarked, "restaurants seem to spring from the gutters." A commanding statute of an Inca (ruler) towers over the main square, but there seems no living center. A couple of years ago a landslide swept down the overhanging granite slopes, leaving eleven people missing. The town's only purpose seems to extract dollars from tourist/pilgrims.
The municipality is refreshingly honest about its purpose and its relationship with its visitors. On every ticket on the bus to and from the ruins riders can read the following message, conveniently rendered in the town's English:
The message reminded of me of the post-911 slogan promoted here in San Francisco: "America -- open for business."