Category Archives: Machu Picchu

Salcantay Trail to Machu Picchu Update

Cusco, 02 February 2010, 12:00 pm

In regards to the unusual heavy rains in Cusco last week, though we understand (and tolerate) the inherent nature of the media and its need to utilize the shock value to keep us – the audience – on our toes, we feel that it is our responsibility to “tell it like it is” and provide up to date input to unfounded rumors and news of continuing tragedy and devastation, which is certainly not the case.

Here is a list of what’s official, what’s rumor, and our take on each.

Machu Picchu and the Town of Machu Picchu (a.k.a. Aguas Calientes) are different things. Unfortunately, the media is not being clear in making the distinction between the two, when this case clearly merits it. ‘Machu Picchu’ is the archeological site or Inca citadel. The ‘Town of Machu Picchu’ or ‘Aguas Calientes’ (which are one of the same) is the town located at the bottom of the mountain on which ‘Machu Picchu’ is located.

Is Machu Picchu going to be ‘closed’ during February and March, or onwards? The answer is NO. Officially, the archeological site of Machu Picchu was only ‘closed’ for 3 days last week. Today, Machu Picchu is not ‘closed’ but ‘inaccessible’. Machu Picchu will not be ‘closed’ during February and March. In fact, by the 3rd week of February 2010 – OR SOONER – Machu Picchu will become accessible again and Machu Picchu will be ‘open to the public’.

Is Machu Picchu accessible right now?
Machu Picchu has 2 entry points. Imagine a donut with Cusco at the bottom and Machu Picchu at the top. The left semi-circle is the access to Machu Picchu via the town of Santa Teresa/Hydroelectric, where there is a train station. The train tracks from the Hydroelectric Train Station to the TOWN of Machu Picchu have suffered damages, BUT THIS PORTION IS SAID (OFFICIALLY BY THE TRAIN TRACK OPERATOR, AS WELL AS THE TRAIN SERVICE OPERATOR) TO BE OPERATIONAL BY THE 3RD WEEK IN FEBRUARY. Unofficially, we have learned that after a 2nd inspection to determine repair work, they have estimated a new time frame for repairs of 10 DAYS – OR LESS, for the train tracks that go from the Hydroelectric Train Station to the Town of Machu Picchu. The access road from Cusco to the town of Santa Teresa is transitable, but is still being currently repaired by the Government.

The right semi-circle is the access to Machu Picchu via the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Ollantaytambo). The train tracks from Ollantaytambo to the TOWN of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) have suffered damages and this portion is said (officially by the train track operator, as well as the train service operator) to be operational by the 3rd week in March – OR SOONER.

The train track repairs and subsequent restoration of the train service are not temporary measures. Safety and security are guaranteed for the train service by the train and track operators, for each portion of the train track that will be re-opened in the course of the next 60 days.

Has Machu Picchu suffered any damages? The Tourism Minister and local Archeological/Cultural authorities (INC) categorically say “NO”. They have officially stated that it is “in perfect condition”.

Has the Town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) suffered any damages – how about the hotels? Yes, the Town has suffered damages but mostly in accessibility which – as explained – will be restored soon. Otherwise, the river has affected the riverside boardwalk, but this does not make the town ‘un-walkable’ or unsafe. There are still plenty of main and side streets to transit the town. The hotels are in good condition and have not been affected.

Rumor of permanent helicopter access for Machu Picchu visits (during the first 3 weeks in February) until ground access is restored (3rd week in February). This was an idea proposed by some industry leaders, but was discarded by the Government.  Off the record, during the first 3 weeks in February the air space to Machu Picchu will only be usable for emergencies.

The city of Cusco and the archeological sites of Saccsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo (to name the main ones) are currently fully operational, fully accessible and in perfect conditions. In fact, they are being visited by many tourists right now.

What is being shown in the news (video/photo) of houses collapsing, floods and broken train tracks is what happened ONE WEEK AGO in some communities in the region of Cusco.
Today, this is not happening anymore. The water levels have decreased significantly (allowing for much quicker repair/restoration work everywhere), the floods have drained and significant amounts of relief efforts are being provided to those affected, on a daily basis.

Cusco depends heavily on Tourism and – especially – on Machu Picchu. Yes. This is why there are significant amounts of resources being deployed to QUICKLY restore things to normal and there is ample confidence that there will be (ITS ALREADY HAPPENING) significant advances to bring things back to normal in the next 30 days.

Should I cancel or postpone my trip? No. By the time our (Mountain Lodges of Peru) trips begin for the season (5th March 2010) we anticipate that Machu Picchu will be fully operational and accessible. MLP is not canceling any of its departures, as the current conditions and reparation estimates present sufficient time frames for MLP to consider that by the beginning of the season MLP will be able to offer the standard schedule, including the visit to Machu Picchu and the standard activities.

Has the Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu been affected? The Salkantay Trail is affected every year by the rainy season. Therefore, every year before the beginning of the trekking season, MLP and the local authorities commit to trail maintenance. This year is no different. The trails have only been moderately affected, as expected and as always. There has not been severe damage on the trail and by the 5th of March, we anticipate offering normal trekking operations.

Have the MLP lodges been affected? No. The lodges are being monitored on a daily basis and are currently in perfect conditions due to strategic placement as well as reliable construction materials and methods.

What does it mean that Cusco has been declared in a ‘state of emergency’ by the Peruvian Government? This is a legal mechanism through which resources are heavily deployed to a certain activity, situation or area. In this case, the need of declaring Cusco in a ‘state of emergency’ served the goal of liberating and assigning significant amount of funding to restore things to normal and to provide aid to those affected. The ‘state of emergency’ should not be interpreted as a safety/security risk.

We always recommend (as usual, regardless of this specific situation) purchasing travel insurance, through your trusted provider.

We hope that this alleviates some of the confusion created around varying – but infrequent – reports on the situation. Please know that this is only MLP’s assessment based on our daily and constant monitoring of the situation, through industry contacts, Government agencies and officials and our own team on the field.

Also, please note that we have purposely focused on what is being done to restore things to normal, instead of continuing to focus on what already happened, which we are sure you will continue to obtain information about through the media. We kindly ask that you handle and interpret this information and the information offered by the media, responsibly.

Machu Picchu Update

FERROCARRIL TRANSANDINO – FETRANSA (the partially Orient Express owned company that leases and operates the railway infrastructure between Cuzco Ollantaytambo Machu Picchu) has issued a statement with the following information:

FETRANSA`s engineers have already inspected the 122 kilometers of railway track between Cuzco, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.

As the priority is to restore rail service into Machu Picchu, FETRANSA has decided to start works in three stages:

Hidroelerica  – Machu Picchu: The  work will last three weeks service should be restored by approximately February 20th.

Piscacucho  – Machu Picchu: The  work will last seven weeks – service should be restored by approximately March 20th.

Ollantaytambo  – Piscacucho: The  work will last eight weeks – service should be restored by approximately April 01st.

Hidroelerica is located 8 miles away from Machu Picchu in the opposite direction than Ollantaytambo or Cuzco. To get there passengers would need to be driven to Santa Teresa and onwards to Hidroelectrica, from where they will take a very short train ride to Machu Picchu. The whole trip Cuzco Santa Teresa Hidroelectrica Machu Picchu should last approximately 4 hours (which actually is quite similar to the amount of time it takes to get from Cuzco to Machu Picchu Pueblo under regular conditions). There is no direct route from the Urubamba Valley to Santa Teresa passengers will have to go via Cuzco.

Piscacucho is a couple of miles from Ollantaytambo towards Machu Picchu, and is the official starting point of the 4-day Inca Trail. This point is fully accessible by bus. Passengers will board and return to this point until the Ollantaytambo Piscacucho portion is restored

It is important to mention that all working plans are subject to weather conditions, although the fact that we are in rainy season has been taken into account to make the above-mentioned estimates.

Lanslides near Machu Picchu

Severe rainfall has caused landslides along the railway tracks to Machu Picchu, making it impossible for trains to reach or depart Aguas Calientes.

As the bad weather continues, rehabilitation of the railway tracks can`t be currently done, so Peru Rail, the Cuzco local government, the federal government, the US embassy and Peru Rail have provided helicopters (a total of 10) to take passengers from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo, so that they can be then transferred to Cuzco. Climate conditions are still not good enough for the helicopter operations to operate at full capacity, so the evacuation of passengers is not happening at a quick pace.

Our associates in Peru have 3 representatives in Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) who are assisting our passengers. We do not expect the railway system to be operational at least before mid next week – if weather conditions allow. Full evacuation of passengers can take a couple more days, although this is hard to predict as it really depends on the weather. Machu Picchu’s geographical conditions make it very hard for helicopters to land during bad weather.

For those passengers already in Peru we are offering alternative destinations. For those that are arriving to Peru in the very short term (at least between now and February 8th), our recommendation is to cancel the trip to Machu Picchu. For those passengers arriving after February 8th, our suggestion would be to wait a couple of days to allow for the railway operator and authorities to asses the damages and provide an estimated date for the train service to be operational again.

Please be assured that we are 100% on top of this situation. Right now are main concern are the passengers that need to be evacuated from Machu Picchu and those already in Peru that will not be able to visit the ruins.