Posted by: Ali | January 30, 2010

But I want to go to Cusco – an update

As you probably know by now Cusco has had some serious problems with heavy rainfall and flooding.  For someone who is not currently in Peru I imagine it would be very hard to figure out exactly what’s going on, especially since the geography of Peru is not often taught in schools.  I have a number of friends and family who are interested in visiting Peru so in this post I will do my best to give you the low-down on the situation.

The Basics

  • Due to heavy rainfall that the meteorological authorities in Peru have estimated to be three times greater than normal for the season, Cusco and many of the surrounding regions have flooded (photo)
  • Access to the Sacred Valley has been destroyed as nine bridges have washed out (video)
  • Machu Picchu is temporarily closed due to lack of access.  There are only two ways to get to Machu Picchu, wonder of the world, and they are by the Inca Trail, a 4-day hike, and by a train from Cusco.  The Inca Trail is closed due to mudslides and the railway has been partially destroyed and therefore the train will not be running until the railway is repaired (photo)

What regions are affected?

The affected area is the mountainous region of Peru, which is currently experiencing their rainy season.  In contrast, Lima, where I live, is in the coastal desert.  Basically, all of the rain clouds coming from the East are too heavy to go over the Andes so by the time the air gets to Lima there is no moisture left, because all the rain occurs on the Eastern side of the mountains. (photo explanation)  Also, although there has been a lot of rain in the mountains, most of the villages are in the valleys of the mountains, which is where the rain pools.  The homes built on the sides of the mountains are also usually made from basic materials like mud bricks and are therefore prone to landslides.

It is not just Cusco that is affected.  (Click map to enlarge)  The provinces of Puno, Apurimac, Huanuco, Huancayo, Junin, Huancavelica, and Ayacucho have also been experiencing heavy damages and many people have been made homeless in these regions as well.

What is the current situation?

  • Total damage is estimated at $300 million US
  • A state of emergency has been declared in Cusco and Huancayo
  • Around 30,000 locals have been made homeless and 16,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed, right before the harvest.  Many livestock have also drowned
  • Over 20 people are dead due to floods or landslides
  • Although approximately 3000 tourists were stranded at Machu Picchu (or Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu), they have all been airlifted to safety
  • The rain has seemed to stop for now, but more rain is expected during the month of February

When will I be able to travel to Peru?

One of the very sad things I find about the situation is the fact that Peru is such a fantastic country and has tons of stuff to offer.  The sad part is that not many people know about much in Peru other than Machu Picchu.  If you are planning a trip to Peru in the near future and are unable to change it, I recommend doing a bit of research and going off the beaten path and you will discover that Peru is really a very interesting country with a little bit of everything.

That being said, if you have your heart set on going to Machu Picchu or Cusco region, it has just been announced that under good weather conditions it will take seven weeks before anyone will be able to visit Machu Picchu.  It will, however, be a top priority as the tourism industry has reported losses of $1 million per day and therefore Peru cannot afford to have Machu Picchu closed for very long.  Also, at least one bridge needs to be rebuilt before anyone can visit the Sacred Valley (Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo).

Some places that you can still go visit in Peru:

  • Arequipa, a beautiful colonial city in southern Peru surrounded by canyons and volcanoes, as well as beaches and some ruins.  Great for trekking!
  • The province of Ica, just South of Lima, which contains the amazing Nazca lines, dune-buggying, sand-boarding, beaches, the beautiful wildlife reserve of the Islas Ballestas, and white-water rafting in Lunahuana.  Great for adventure!
  • Mancora, the surfer’s paradise on the Northern coast near Ecuador.  Wonderful cheap beach resorts, a great place to rest and relax, learn to surf, go horseback riding on the beach, or go waterskiing.
  • The cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo, lesser known archaeological sites in Peru, home to the Lord of Sipan, numerous pre-Inca pyramids, great museums, hiking, and even beaches.  Great for history bufffs!
  • Iquitos, the jungle capital of Peru, where you can go jungle cruising, sleep in hammocks, visit some wildlife, and have some crazy jungle parties.  Great for the super-adventurous!


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  2. Thank you Ali for keeping us up to date. Though we worry about you, it is nice to have someone close to the area that can decipher the sparse coverage we are getting outside of Peru. I noticed that even the CBC radio news was 5 days behind your reporting of it. Thanks again, stay safe, and we will see you soon.


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