Access to Machu Picchu completely destroyed

January 28th, 2010

Machu Picchu looks set to be out of service for quite some time as the single rail link taking tourists to the ancient Inca citadel has been completely wiped out. Peru’s over-sold main tourist attraction is an example of hyping a single site in a single small area of Peru to concentrate revenue that now looks to be backfiring.

See the amazing photos and videos of the destruction here.

Get the latest news on the disaster here

Heavy rains that trapped some two thousand foreign tourists in the town of Aguas Calientes have also caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the region in decades.

Perhaps as big as the personal loss felt by the individuals affected is the economic loss now set to blight Cusco.

Three days have passed since the town of Aguas Calientes was cut off from the rest of the Sacred Valley and airlifts are still occurring to get the increasingly desperate stranded tourists out of the town and back to Cusco.

The town’s connection to the rest of the world is via a set of train tracks normally used to ferry tourist to and from the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu in trains. Only now is the extent of damage to the railway being realized.

American tourist Cole Gainer, 26, unwilling to wait any longer in Aguas Calientes, attempted to hike back along the route of the raging river. As supplies ran out and prices were hiked by local businesses to take advantage, many others decided to make the journey. As Cole’s photos show, they were confronted with this:

The hike took 10 hours to complete but he and the small group that accompanied him were able to get out safely.

Last Train Out

Just as shocking is the video taken by tourists of the last train able to make it out of Aguas Calientes, who may have just narrowly avoided a tragic disaster.

Eggs in one basket

It’s sad that a country with such a large variety of attractions, many hundreds from archaeological to natural, is only associated with one: the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Although it offers great views, it was never an important Inca site, it is not the most remote, it is not the only site undiscovered by the Spanish and is not home to the finest Inca construction work.

Machu Picchu… and Cusco for that matter… is just one attraction in a country so rich in them you’d need months to see them and all easily match it.

Unfortunately, it is more profitable to advertise a single location and concentrate foreign tourists there to more easily relieve them of their money with inflated prices.

Whether the fault of a mafia-like Cusco tourist industry, simple laziness by foreign and local tourism companies who slap and image of Machu Picchu on advertising and say “that’s Peru”, or the ignorance of cash-rich tourists happy to hand over money and be taken to where they are told – the result is the same. A Peru without Machu Picchu, despite there being dozens of equivalents across the country, is a country with a tourism industry in trouble.

The other Peru – more trips of a lifetime

In the spirit of diffusing the distribution of tourists across Peru, and in providing alternative trips of a lifetime, stay tuned for the up-coming feature:

Without Machu Picchu you’ll enjoy the Trip of a Lifetime

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