Posted by: Jessie Kwak | February 2, 2010

Traveling to Machu Picchu? Not quite yet….

“Can I still get to Machu Picchu?” is the question on everyone’s lips lately. Some airlines are apparently allowing refunds for canceled flights to Peru if your sole purpose was to see Machu Picchu, and the hostel that Rob and I are staying at has had several cancelations, as well.

Machu Picchu seems to be relatively undamaged by the rains. But is it accessible? Not right now. But wait! Don’t call your airline yet!

Machu Picchi throught the wispy clouds.

While you may not be able to visit Machu Picchu right away, don’t cancel that trip to Peru. We’ll tell you all the other cool stuff you can do here. Today’s post recaps the damage of the last few weeks, and explains the situation today. Come back tomorrow for Peru is Bigger than Machu Picchu. Or just skim through our archives for ideas from our last five months of wandering through Peru.

Flooding in Cusco (oh, and Abancay and Puno and Huancayo and….)

The torrential rains and subsequent flooding of the last weeks has left more than 23,000 people homeless. The people who have been the most affected are those who have the least, whose one-room homes and 2-hectare cornfields are their only assets. Some 16,000 hectares of crops were destroyed in the flooding, and although some farmers have received aid, it’s unlikely to be nearly enough.

While tourists were airlifted out of Aguas Calientes (otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) Peruvians were stuck on the road between Cusco and Abancay for days without food or shelter, and without the all-important press coverage.

For English-language coverage of the situation, photos, and insight, check out Living in Peru, and En Peru Blog. (The post I linked to for En Peru Blog has a ton of great photos and video.).

Damage and loss of tourism

Of these affected areas, Cusco in particular is reliant on tourist dollars for its revenue, and since the flooding, Peru estimates that it’s losing a million dollars a day in tourism. The railway has been destroyed in eight places (check out those photos), which will take time and money to repair, let alone the bridges that connect the Sacred Valley to Cusco city.

A bridge that I will never see again.

The government appears to be scrambling to fix these problems, and given the enormous amount of money they’re losing for every day’s delay, there’s no doubt access will be fixed asap. But….

Can I still get to Machu Picchu?

Well, not right now. (But don’t call your airline yet!)

Fetransa, the company in charge of the railway, is hoping that the railway will be fixed within two months, and that they will be able to provide access to Machu Picchu within three weeks. The plan is to repair the road between Ollantaytambo and Santa Teresa in order to get tourists into the area (you’ll still have to hike several hours from Santa Teresa to Machu Picchu itself). The journey will be more complicated than ever, but no worries, tour companies will still be falling all over themselves to charge you top dollar for the service.

“Meet Peru Now”

With their major cash cow out of commission for a month or more, Peru’s tourist department is rethinking their strategy of only marketing Machu Picchu. They’ve suddenly realized that Peru has so much more to offer than a single overhyped (albeit impressive) set of Inca ruins. Maybe they read our blog, or Stu’s blog, or Living in Peru’s travel section, or Kojin’s weblog.

I recently read a comment on a news article about Machu Picchu:

We are to arrive in Cuzco on the 16th March this year so it looks like we may have to rethink our situation. I believe there is another significant site somewhere down South, if I recall it is older than Matchu Picchu…would anyone know where this might be?

Kuelap, North not south.

To the woman who left this comment I’d love to say: Welcome to Peru! Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll tell you exactly where else you can go now that Machu Picchu is getting a well-deserved rest.

Helping out

Want to help? Check out this article on Living in Peru for a listing of places to send donations.

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