Marc Yeterian has one of the most unique jobs in the entire tourism sector. He is General Manager of Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, running one of the world’s iconic luxury hotels, which has a mere 31 bedrooms, but he has a staff of 108.
This is because as well as feeding the hotel guests, who generally stay only one night, with big breakfasts, lunches, teas and dinners, he runs a buffet restaurant that serves 450 lunches.
He also runs the facilities at the entrance to the famous ruins, and the hotel has its own laundry (the embroidered duvet covers, without a single crease, are on a par with any top hotel, worldwide, says the gal).
The transport between the town of Aguas Calientes, or Machu Picchu Pueblo, 25 minutes’ drive via hair-raising bends from here, is strictly controlled. Only official buses can run the route. No buses run between 2200 at night and 0500.
This means that 106 of Yeterian’s staff have to be out by 2200 at the latest (finish your dinner quick as the waiter has to go). Two people are on duty all night, including one who sets out a 15-foot long buffet spread ready for eager hotel guests to breakfast at 0530 before the ruins open at 0600.
At 0550 the first tourist bus arrives from down below, and pretty soon every five minutes a bus comes up, drops its load and heads down again. Marc Yeterian also stays here overnight. He says the first bus is his alarm clock.
Guests at this Orient-Express beauty must be out of their rooms by 1100, but by then most, who have been in the ruins from 0600, have long since returned, exhausted. Their small bags are stored, their rooms made up as the first of the new guests arrive at 1300.
And all the time – just as at Raffles in Singapore – there are outsiders coming and going, going and coming.
After lunches (both the mammoth buffet, and the served lunch in the room that is exclusive to hotel guests), next comes afternoon tea, to which all hotel guests and anyone on the fabulous Hiram Bingham train is invited free.
A New Yorker near me had about a pint of fresh fruit salad and about ten sandwiches. He had probably climbed five mountains. Luxury lifestyle is keeping fit.
And in between, there are the hotel’s own Orchid Gardens to visit. Depending on the time of year you might see purple ones, red ones, yellow ones.
Humming birds flit around a hanging feeder. The most exclusive bedrooms have small outdoor terraces leading on to the communal grass (I like room 40, furthest from the others).
There is a big outdoor Jacuzzi, and nearby a cabin acts as day room, for those waiting for the late trains, away from the glories of Machu Picchu. Some stay on in the general entertainment room, as at the moment WiFi, which is free, works best there, though instant fibre-optic is promised ‘soon’.
For the maximum-62 lucky, and clever, people who are staying overnight in this Leading Hotel of the World, the evening continues – but remember everything starts early.
A group of three musicians delight with the evocative Peruvian songs that émigrés somewhat bastardise when they play in the streets in London, Paris or Rome. Here the music is just so suitable, especially accompanied by another Pisco sour.
Marc explains that all the foodstuffs for the hotel come up in one truck, at about tea- time, and the same truck takes down all the garbage. Gosh his life is logistics, start to finish, 24/7. We look at the dinner menu, and I start with a tomato, cucumber and heart of palm salad with a yoghurt and muña (local mint) dressing.
I already know that the French fries here could rank among the ten best anywhere. Tonight I must try local, so alpaca loin it is, or was, as I honestly think that animal is better on the hoof, frolicking and acting as a lawnmower.
Waiter Uriel is so happy that we are all happy – we are drinking a local red, a Tabernero Quinto Roble Merlot from Ica. We discuss plans for tomorrow.
As always, for Marc Yeterian, it is making sure his guests have finished dinner and gone to bed, and that his staff made the last bus home. Tomorrow will be wake up, breakfast from 0530 and for some, like me, back in the ruins shortly after for a last look at Machu Picchu