It’s been an ugly few days for travelers who decided to visit Machu Picchu in the rainy season. “Helicopters had taken 700 people by mid-afternoon from the remote village, the closest to the ancient Inca ruins 8,000 feet up in the Andes mountains. About 2,000 travelers were trapped in the town for days, strapping resources and testing travelers’ patience.”
That’s the short version from the Associated Press. The trouble started when train service—the only way in or out—was halted because of rain and mud. People were sleeping in the streets, scrounging for food, and generally being miserable. It got worse as the days went on since more people kept arriving via the Inca Trail, including all the porters who couldn’t get home to their families.
This was a bad rainstorm, but pretty much any guidebook on Peru tells you that mid-January to the end of February is the absolute worst time to visit Machu Picchu and you’re almost sure to get drenched. The Inca Trail isn’t even open in February because it’s too slippery and muddy. (Plus they do maintenance work then while they’ve got it closed.) Whether from ignorance or a “maybe we’ll get lucky” sentiment, a lot of tourists avoid this advice and go anyway. Sometimes it works out, just like sometimes people win at keno or roulette. The odds are not in your favor though.
A few years ago I did a public chat session thing for Budget Travel magazine’s online site on traveling in Mexico and Central America. The question that kept coming up over and over was basically, “Is it really all that rainy during the rainy season in Costa Rica?” The answer is “buckets of rain,” but you see they wanted to go during the summer break, when they had already set their vacation time or when their kids had a long stretch off school. The problem is, weather systems don’t give a crap about your schedule, whether that’s rainy season in Costa Rica, monsoon time in southern India, or hurricane season in Cancun.
Find a way to fit your schedule into Mother Nature’s schedule instead of trying to hope she’ll smile down on you and change her historic patterns. I feel sorry for everyone stranded in ugly Aguas Calientes town for days in Peru and I’m glad it wasn’t me. It never would have been me though—I look at a guidebook before making plans.
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