Chicago Sun-Times
With Lori Rackl

Problems at Machu Picchu

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I hiked the Inca Trail in 2006 and found the conditions along the way to be rustic, to say the least. (It's a beautiful hike but after four days without running water, "real" food or a bed, I was beginning to think I'm getting too old for this kind of thing.)

Anyway, my rustic experience sounds like sheer luxury compared to what's happening now:


LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Tourists visiting Peru's famed Machu Picchu citadel said Wednesday they lack enough food, water and shelter and are at the mercy of price-gougers three days after mudslides trapped them in a nearby village.
The visitors complained that restaurants are inflating their prices, and many have slept in Machu Picchu Pueblo's train station or in the central plaza after they ran out of money or the hostels ran out of space.
"It's chaos. We don't have food, we don't have water, we don't have blankets, we can't communicate and the police lack an evacuation plan to put us at ease," Argentine tourist Alicia Casas told Lima's Canal N TV station.
Machu Picchu Pueblo city spokesman Ruben Baldeon told The Associated Press that bottles of water are selling for $3.50 in the isolated region -- five times the typical price -- and electricity to the town has been cut.
A thick cloud clover kept helicopters from flying to the village Wednesday morning, but flights resumed in the afternoon, Baldeon said.
There was no immediate word on how many people were taken out. Choppers dropped off food and water and ferried out 475 people on Tuesday.
Authorities say 1,400 travelers remain, stranded since Sunday's mudslides damaged sections of the railway to the city of Cuzco -- the only way in or out of the area.
"It's worrisome. We didn't think it would take this long," Tourism Minister Martin Perez told Lima's RPP radio. "We can evacuate 120 tourists per hour; now the only thing we need is for the climate to help us out a little bit."
Meteorologists forecast moderate rain for the rest of the week.
About 400 Americans, 700 Argentines, 300 Chileans and 215 Brazilians were among the roughly 2,000 travelers initially stranded. U.S. authorities have sent four helicopters stationed in Peru for drug interdiction and police training to join four Peruvian military and several private choppers in the rescue.
Argentina's foreign ministry said in a statement that oil company Pluspetrol sent two helicopters to deliver food and evacuate the Argentines, an operation expected to take a day or two.
Five days of torrential rains in the Cuzco region have destroyed bridges, at least 250 houses and hundreds of acres (hectares) of crops.
Mudslides have killed five people, including an Argentine tourist and her guide who were hiking the Inca trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu.
The spectacular Inca citadel, perched on an Andean mountaintop, is Peru's top tourist destination.

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This page contains a single entry by Lori Rackl published on January 28, 2010 12:15 PM.

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