My goal of seeing Machu Picchu has increaced in difficulty, it would seem almost to the point of being impossible. A week or so ago the Cusco and Machu Picchu area suffered torrential downpours, resulting in mudslides and avalanches throughout the region. On the Inca Trail, the four-day trek leading to Machu Picchu, a local guide and a tourist were killed by a mudslide. The Inca Trail has now been closed.
The railway line which connects Cusco with Aguas Calientes, the town which is the base for visiting Machu Picchu, runs along the banks of the River Urubamba, and large sections of rail have been swept away, effectively cutting off the town of Aguas Calientes. Tourists and locals had to be airlifted out of Aguas Calientes over a period of days as weather closed in again, and food and water supplies ran out.
It is now estimated that the rail line will take around two months to repair, and Machu Picchu has been closed, for an estimated similar period of time.
My visit to Machu Picchu has been planned to fit nicely between seeing Easter Island and the Carnival in Rio in mid February, with a stop off on the way for a quick visit to Iguazu falls. And so I have had my flights all booked since the end of November, from Santiago to Lima, Lima to Cusco, and then on the 9th of February, from Cusco to Lima and on to Buenos Aires.
Over the past few days I have heard nothing but words of warning, and messages of doom and gloom regarding my chances of getting to see Machu Picchu, and the realistic side of me has to agree, it does seem like an impossible task under the current circumstances.
However, as I had already paid for my tickets, and any change will incur heavy penalties, I decided to continue on to Cusco, and see how the situation looked when I got there. As always, I try to maintain a positive outlook, and hope for the best. I also tend to think that you have to look at the problem from all sides, and seek an alternative option that others may not consider. I have a couple of ideas that are worth investigating, and haven’t given up on this goal yet!
It’s only a short flight from Lima, and I arrived in Cusco at around 11am, and made my way to Ronnie’s apartment. Ronnie is another couchsurfing contact that my friend Val got in touch with, and he is kindly accomodating us for our stay in Cusco. Val is scheduled to arrive a couple of days after me, so my task now is to try to find some way of resolving our Machu Picchu dilemma.
Cusco itself was also hit by flooding, but as I have wandered around town this afternoon, it is hard to tell, as all seems to have returned to normal now, apart from some obvious places where water has pulled away a lot of earth, or part of a pathway.
The city is very eyecatching, with green mountains on all sides. I was surprised to find that it is much bigger than I expected, and I discovered that around 500,000 people live here. At an altitude of 3,400 metres (I think that’s around 11,000 feet) it is one of the highest cities in the world.
I wandered around taking photos of the city squares and ornate cathedrals and churches, ate in a tiny cafe, and wandered some more, and then attended to practical matters, and took most of my clothes to a nearby laundry for some much needed cleaning.
I had a long chat with Ronnie about Machu Picchu possibilities, and also did some research around town. More news to follow if and when we get anything organised!