US tourists stranded at Machu Picchu by deadly protests in Peru

US tourists stranded at Machu Picchu by deadly protests in Peru
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Many roads are blocked and train services have been suspended, leaving several tourists stranded for days in Machu Picchu without transportation from the UNESCO World Heritage site to an international airport nearly 50 miles away in Cusco.

Colorado resident Tom Gray’s group managed to catch the last bus back to Aguas Calientes, the gateway city to the citadel, he told NBC News in a video interview.

He said there were dozens still trapped at the top.

“Our guide had to bribe the protesters to move the rocks and allow us to return to our hotel,” said Gray, who first arrived at Machu Picchu on Monday night. His group had to navigate through at least 18 barricades made of trees and rocks, he added, which were guarded by local villagers.

“We were like 200 instead of 5,000, which is the normal population” for the site, Gray said, adding: “we had the whole place to ourselves.”

“That was a huge silver lining everywhere being stuck here,” Gray said.

All trains to and from Machu Picchu stopped on Tuesday, PeruRail said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“The Government of Peru is organizing an evacuation via four helicopters of the most vulnerable foreign tourists from Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Village,” the US Embassy in Lima said in a statement on Saturday.

“The Peruvian government has informed the US Embassy that there are plans underway to assist all travelers in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Village with departure,” he added.

Nearly 400 Machu Picchu tourists were escorted by tourism police to the Ollantaytambo district, northwest of Cusco, and then transported to the airport by bus, the ministry said in a tweet on Sunday.

Workers try to remove a rock placed by rioters on the train tracks to block the passage of the train to and from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu on December 17, 2022.MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP – Getty Images

On Saturday, the ministry said it planned to “facilitate humanitarian flights,” prioritizing the elderly and vulnerable.

The violent unrest has prompted notices from the US State Department advising citizens to “reconsider travel” to the country, and similar guidance from other countries, including the UK and Spain.

Following the tips, Daniels and McLaughlin booked their flights from Lima for Sunday night and Gray booked his for Tuesday. “We can get to the Cusco airport, that airport is open and it would transport us to Lima,” Daniels told NBC News, adding that he would head once trains resume.

“However, we miss our families; we would like to come home. Our children will be flying out to be with us for Christmas and they could have it without us,” McLaughlin said.

Matthew Bodner Y Associated Press contributed.

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