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After helicopters flew out the final group of  tourists stranded in Machu Picchu this past Friday – five days after the devastating mudslides closed off the only land route in and out of the UNESCO World Heritage site and killed upwards of 20 people, the streets of Aguas Calientes, a village of 4,000 people, were empty and forlorn.  The rescue efforts have ceased, leaving locals, many of whom are also stranded from their homes, to literally dig themselves out of the mess get through what will likely be several months of difficulty.

Before we could even get out of our beds the water was flowing over them
Berta Pantoja, flood victim, Lucre

As a result of the mudslides, most villagers are packing up and heading back to the nearby city of Cuzco, faced with a shutdown of Machu Picchu that some Peruvian officials say could stretch to two months – a big blow for a local economy dependent on tourism.

“There are no travelers here now and we have nothing to do. Everyone is leaving because there’s no work. Without tourism there’s no reason to be here,” said Jadira Mendez, 29, a maid who had just been laid off at the Pirwa Hostel.

In a statement last Thursday, Perurail said that it will take at least eight weeks to complete repairs.  Accordingly, the  regional National Culture Institute, which administers the Machu Picchu park, indicated the site will stay closed until train service resumes.

Tourism Minister Martin Perez told the AP that officials had not yet calculated potential losses from the shutdown of the park.  Hundreds of hotel reservations have been canceled, according to Peru’s National Chamber of Tourism, costing the country some $500,000 a day.

The situation is clearly devastating.

We have been in contact with one of our partners in Peru, Condor Travel and their partner, WINGS,  a non-profit association that promotes sustainable tourism in the countries where Condor Travel operates.  WINGS, is currently bringing donations to the  affected communities, including clothing, food, blankets, medicine and money.

Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so through The Wow! Travel Club.  We will forward all money directly to Condor Travel, for immediate distribution of needed items.  Please contact mmurphy@wowtravelclub.com for more information.