This Week in Travel News: The Peruvian Airport Battle that Stranded Thousands at Machu Picchu| Peruvian protesters banded together to fight against government injustice this week, stranding thousands of tourists at Machu Picchu in the process.
By Michael Fraiman
When I moved to Peru for a few months, like a good Canadian, I registered with the government. After returning to Canada, like a lazy Canadian, I forgot to tell the government—so someone there still thinks I live in Peru, and, subsequently, I still get occasional travel-advisory emails from the Canadian embassy, such as the one I got earlier this week warning me that Peruvian protesters had blocked the PeruRail tracks leading to Machu Picchu, causing massive delays and stranding thousands of tourists on both sides.
This story didn’t get a lot of play in North American media, but it’s an interesting story. Setting aside that the initial protesters were joined by approximately 20,000 teachers petitioning for a salary increase (solidarity!), the original group was protesting the controversial construction of a new airport in Chinchero, which would replace the current one in Cusco.
Cusco is a major tourist city that’s a launching-off point for Machu Picchu, but its airport isn’t very big, so this new one in Chinchero—which is about 50 minutes northwest of Cusco—would alleviate an increasing tourism strain the region is seeing, while delivering travellers closer to Machu Picchu itself, which is, let’s face it, almost certainly the reason they’re flying into Cusco at all. So some locals are now angry that Cusco will get overlooked, tourism will drop, the economy will bruise, taxes will be wasted, etc.
The timing of all this is a bit funny, because just a few weeks earlier, Peru’s federal government cancelled the contract with the company set to create the airport, which will delay the project even more. Much like other tourism developments in the country (such as a cable car scheduled to deliver tourists to the “Lost City” of Choquequirao), this strikes me as a lot of anger over something that is profoundly uncertain to even happen—which, maybe, is a good excuse to keep fighting against it, if that’s what you believe in.
In happier news, this week saw two feel-good stories about dogs being found after their owners were certain they had lost them forever. One happened in Toronto, where a family returned from Europe with a young Greek rescue dog named Emily. Not quite an hour into Emily’s Canadian landing, customs officials allegedly opened her crate to take her on her first Canadian walk, only to lose her when she sprung out and ran across the highway. Emily was found and returned to her adoptive family by the next morning, but the family is still angry with Canadian customs for being so sloppy. It’s a fair point.
The second dog’s story is a little more intense. When a family lost their 14-year-old Chesapeake retriever last year in the Idaho mountains, they put up dozens of flyers and waited anxiously. But once the snow began to fall and she didn’t return, the family almost gave up. Then, miraculously, after nine months passed, a local animal rescuer found the dog passed out from exhaustion, covered in fleas and dangerously thin. The family was skeptical that the dog really was theirs, but once they saw her, they burst into tears. As the rescuer told a local reporter, “She’s a legend, she really is.”
If Peruvian workers’ unity and canine reunions don’t call for a happy weekend, I don’t know what does.