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Lucky escape from Cusco


I am in Cusco airport, about to board a flight for Lima.

I feel very fortunate to be able to do this, as a state of emergency has been declared due to the continuing heavy rains. Many previous flights were cancelled, and the airport is only going to get busier as the entire countryside around Cusco is a literal disaster area. Rivers overflowing, houses collapsing (a shop down the street from me in Cusco imploded), just yesterday bridges that I had crossed on Saturday were washed out. All routes, both rail and road, into and out of Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu are now blocked. Machu Picchu itself has been closed off, and thousands of tourists are stranded in Aguas Calientes. Airlifts have started to bring out the most vulnerable people. I met a father and son couple who were airlifted out by helicopter last night, who told me that apparently the American military are bringing in their own helicopters to assist in the evacuation. Thousands more tourists who had planned to walk the Inca Trail, or who wanted to visit Machu Picchu, are milling around Cusco and most are evaluating where to go next. In a lot of cases the answer is Lima, so I was lucky to have booked my flight out today. It´s going to get messy around here soon, I sense chaos on the near horizon as everyone tries to leave the region. I feel lucky for having decided not to attempt to get to Machu Picchu by taxi on Saturday night – very likely I would still be there now, and miss my flight.

But the problems of me and a few thousand other tourists are insignificant. Whatever happens, eventually we will go on to other, sunnier destinations, to continue our vacations and our lives. The poor people who live here, especially the already poverty-stricken Quechuas in the valleys and the mountains, are the ones that have to live with all this devastation, and over 3000 of them have already lost their homes. We go away with a travel story to tell, but the people we leave behind have to pick up the pieces.

I will write more when I get to Lima.

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