homeincatrailWe at Zephyr Adventures have been planning for months to start a new blog connected to our IncaTrailHiking.com site. Because of heavy rains and flooding earlier this month in the Cusco and Machu Picchu areas, we felt that now is the time.

Heavy rains caused massive flooding along the Vilcabamba River (also known as the Urubamba River), which runs down the Sacred Valley, past Ollantaytambo and the start of the Inca Trail, and ultimately past Machu Picchu. The event that made front pages of newspapers here in the United States was the stranding of almost 1000 tourists at Aguas Calientes (now called Machu Picchu Pueblo), the small town at the base of the historic ruins.

That situation was solved several weeks ago when the Peruvian government helicoptered the tourists back to Cusco. However, the stranding occurred because Machu Picchu’s only real transit link, a railroad running to Cusco, was washed out in half a dozen sections. The railroad company, under intense pressure to repair the railroad, is working quickly to do so.

What does all this mean? First, Machu Picchu is essentially closed because no one can get in or out except by helicopter or on foot via the Inca Trail. (There is a road that runs to the area but it is also impassable.) The railroad is expected to be repaired by the end of March, meaning Machu Picchu should be open on April 1st.

Second, the Classic Inca Trail, which runs high up in the mountains away from the river, was not affected. However, the Trail is currently closed and won’t reopen until the railroad does, since this is how trekkers return to Cusco once they reach Machu Picchu.

Third, the Royal Inca Trail, which is the original (and easier) trail along the river, also was flooded in several places and will need to be repaired. Because this trail gets few visitors, the repair will not take high priority. We expect this trail to be repaired sometime in April or May, although it is probably passable now.

Finally, the real damage to the area occurred outside the tourist areas of Machu Picchu and the railroad. The Sacred Valley is an agricultural area; many fields were flooded and crops destroyed. As our Peruvian friends tell us, the best thing we as potential travelers to Peru can do to help is not to cancel our travel plans. At Zephyr Adventures, we had to cancel our April tour, since we were unable to be certain the railroad would be functioning in time. Our July and October group tours will run. And as an individual traveler, you can still book your own Inca Trail private trip at any time you wish – we just suggest you wait until April 15th, to give the railroad authorities a couple weeks to spare!

Our thoughts and best wishes are with our Peruvian friends.