January 29, 2010
Climatic change and global warming are taking a toll on some of the most renowned tourism attractions around the globe. During the last weeks, torrential rains and landslides affected vast areas of Peru and Bolivia and created havoc on the hiper touristic corridor of Cusco and Machu Picchu. Some four thousand tourists of various nationalities were stranded, particularly on the town of Aguas Calientes, the main gateway to the Citadel. The Government of Peru undertook a titanic rescue operation, including the use of Army and Air Force helicopters to bring the voyagers to safety. As of January 29th, the large majority of the affected visitors had been salvaged. A major operation has been implemented to further airlift the tourists from Cusco to Lima on military planes.
The Vilcanota river, a main waterway in the area grew far beyond its highest level for a rainy season and overflew, flooding the surrounding areas. Thousands of local inhabitants have been affected by the phenomenon while the vital railway which connects the historic city of Cusco with the legendary Inca citadel of Machu Picchu has been interrupted by the collapse of a strategic bridge at Ollantaytambo, in addition to landslides which have damaged the tracks on several places.
The Peruvian authorities have pledged to undertake repairs as soon as the meteorological conditions improve, in order to rehabilitate the world famous rail way, which is the main means of reaching the imposing Machu Picchu complex from Cusco, considering the area is the country’s most important tourism attraction, which brings hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, throughout the year. Preliminary estimates mention from one to three months as the time required to repair the damage caused by the natural disaster.
While informing about the rescue of the stranded visitors, the Vice Minister of Tourism of Peru, Martin Perez, remarked on the wisdom and engineering capacity of the Incas since the actual Citadel resisted the meteor without any damages within its premises. He said that, for the moment, there are no official estimates of the losses which this disaster will cause to Peru’s booming tourism industry and to the country’s economy, considering the importance of tourism for the Andean nation. However, the President of the Association of Tourism Agencies in Cusco, Marco Ochoa, estimated that the losses could reach one million dollars per day. For the same reason, the government authorities are frantically working at contingency and repair plans, in order to reopen in full safety the area for the travelers.
Access to Machu Picchu is prohibited for the moment beyond the fact that the entrance routes are blocked or broken. The renowned and equally famous pedestrian access, most popular among adventure seeking explorers, the legendary Inca Trail, also suffered severe landslides which, regretfully, took the lives of one Argentine tourist and her local guide. This popular way to reach the Machu Picchu Citadel is equally closed and out of service until all of its routes are rehabilitated and totally safe.
We certainly wish the Peruvian nation and its travel industry a prompt recuperation from this calamity and we will keep our clients duly informed on how the situation evolves with regards to visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu, World Heritage Sites and main icons of tourism for Peru.