THE RAINS ARE STOPPING, the tourist evacuations winding down, and attention is beginning to shift to restoring access to the ruins. This will be difficult, given the scale of the damage to infrastructure caused by several weeks of torrential rains and flooding in the Urubamba Valley.
Unprecedented rainfall has caused severe damage to homes and transport links in the region, in some cases costing lives, and rendering several thousand people homeless. One piece of good news for the Cusco region is that Machu Picchu itself is undamaged and can be reopened as soon as access is restored to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town).
The short train line west of the town has been completely washed away in several places, but road access to the hydroelectric plant (the train’s endpoint) is expected to be restored this week. Once this happens, it will be possible for travelers with boots to make their way from Cusco to the hydro plant by bus or colectivo (shared taxi). From there it’s a 3-hour walk along the tracks to Aguas Calientes.
This has been a popular alternative route to Machu Picchu for a while now, favored by the backpacking crowd because it doesn’t require the purchase of any train tickets.
However, although this route will be theoretically possible as soon as the road is reopened, authorities are advising that travelers should not walk to or from Aguas Calientes, as the area is still under a state of emergency and rising water levels remain a danger.
According to engineers at Ferrocarril Transandino S.A., the concession that maintains the tracks, the initial repairs between the hydroelectric plant and Aguas Calientes should be completed by mid-February, restoring road/rail transport to Machu Picchu.
However, full service from Cusco is not expected to resume for at least eight weeks, until the section between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes is repaired. Till then, the two rail firms and travel agencies will be using alternative road/rail options to bring tourists to the ruins.
Meanwhile, repairs to the steep switchback road from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu are underway, and authorities are confident that the road will be reopened by the time the first travelers begin to return.
Find out how you can help Machu Picchu porters through the Karikuy-Haugen Fund. Read about its foundation in JoAnna Haugen Co-Founds Fund for Machu Picchu Porters.