I remember it like it was yesterday. “I want to go to Machu Picchu!” I said one day, out of nowhere, in 2005. I was euphoric for this incredible decision I took, so I told it to my girlfriend.
“I want to go to Machu Picchu!”
“Yes, sure, sure. We’ll go tomorrow…”
I wasn’t very satisfied with her answer. To be honest, I wasn’t satisfied with her at all, so I ditched her after a while. I found her lack of faith disturbing, never clip traveler’s wings!
Anyway, time was passing by, I set aside that project for a while because of more urgent things and the fact I had no money to travel, but in 2009 I came back with the same sentence: “I want to go to Machu Picchu!”
I sold my motorbike to have some extra money, so that was no more a problem, but I didn’t want to go alone. I started looking for a travel companion on the Internet, just like you search for a product you want on Amazon. On some Italian boards, people were looking for the same kind of travel I wanted to do so, after some weeks of emails, calls, and meetings (when possible), I found a girl who wanted to backpack in South America.
Ok, I said. In South America there’s Peru, and in Peru there’s Machu Picchu, so I didn’t mind making a longer trip as long as I could see what I really wanted to.
We planned almost nothing, just the departure day, and that’s it. About the middle of December we left Italy for Brazil, where our journey would have started. We didn’t speak a word of Portuguese and very little Spanish, but in the end, we managed to move around the continent in a way or the other, that means we ended up in places we didn’t want to go because of some problems of communication.
After a New Year’s Eve we won’t forget, we were in Bariloche waiting for our new documents when we heard the news: in Peru it’s raining. Raining like the biblical Deluge, of course. And all in the Cusco area, that is close to Machu Picchu.
The news was simply worrying: the Urubamba river swelled and flooded, killing 26 people at least and destroying dwellings of thousands of inhabitants. Roads closed, some canceled by mudslides, the railway to Machu Picchu was damaged as well, and the government had to use helicopters to rescue all the tourists on top of the Inca site.
Here’s a service from Agence France-Press about what happened in those days:
Needless to say, we were shocked by all of that, we would have never thought about something like this could hit you “directly.” Ingenuously you think you are traveling, and everything is cool, no problems, no worries, you just go and see places and do things, but then reality strikes hard. I could say we were lucky not to be already there when this happened, but not everyone was as lucky as we were, both tourists/travelers and residents.
When we reached Peru we could see with our own eyes what that flood did in the Cusco area: everything close to the Urubamba riverbed was no more. Crops deleted, house destroyed, trees lifted off, people were saying it was the worst rainfall of decades, I was thinking “Of all the years, this year???”. Yeah, I know, I was selfish to think so, but you have to understand that you don’t make a 10.000 km trip every time.
A couple of years later, I was in Malaga, and I met a girl who was there during the flood. She confirmed everything that happened, telling me how she spent a couple of days waiting for the helicopters and once back to Aguas Calientes, she found all her stuff out of the hostel she was sleeping in, because the booking was over and the owners didn’t see her coming back…
In the end, I didn’t see Machu Picchu. The site opened again in April, but I was already in Italy since one month. I couldn’t even blame myself for that, it was just something no one could control, but that left me with a bad taste in my mouth anyway. I’ll be back for sure, sooner or later, and maybe I’ll book a different hostel than the one I wrote above!
Have you ever had an unlucky trip? Tell me in the comment section!
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