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New bridge gives backpackers cheap backdoor entry to Machu Picchu ruins

March 30, 2007. Source: International Herald Tribune, Americas by The Associated Press

A village near Peru's famed Machu Picchu ruins has built a bridge over the turbulent Vilcanota River, opening a cheap backdoor route for adventurous, cash-strapped backpackers.

The bridge was inaugurated Saturday in the village of Santa Teresa despite the objections of government cultural experts, who fear increased tourism could threaten the UNESCO World Heritage site as hostels and restaurants spring up to serve travelers.

They also say increased tourism could imperil rare flora and fauna in the highland jungle surrounding the Inca ruins that are dramatically perched on a ridge 500 kilometers (300 miles) southeast of Lima.

But authorities in Santa Teresa, less than 20 kilometers (10 miles) from the base of the mountain on which Machu Picchu was built, are hoping the bridge will help the local economy get a piece of the tourism pie. Travelers would have to spend the night in the village before continuing on to Machu Picchu.

The site, a complex of stone buildings built by the Inca empire that controlled the area when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru in 1532, has been reachable until now only by train from Cuzco.

The new route targets thrifty backpackers who want to avoid the pricey train tickets, which start at US$73 (€55) and run as high as US$547 (€410) for luxury service. The trains are operated by a British-Peruvian company that has a concession from the state.

The new route involves an eight-hour bus ride through avalanche country, along narrow, twisting dirt roads bordering deep precipices. From Santa Teresa, travelers cross the bridge to catch rides on trucks to a hydroelectric plant, then hike 11 kilometers (seven miles) along railroad tracks to reach Aguas Calientes, down the mountain from Machu Picchu.

The total cost: Less than US$10 (€7.50), though prices are informal and vary.


New Bridge at Ancient Incan Citadel and World Heritage Site was Inaugurated.

March 24, 2007. Sources: El Diario del Cuzco, Diario El Sol del Cuzco

Carilluchayoc Bridge, Vilcanota River, Santa Teresa and Machu PicchuThe Carilluchayoc Bridge, has been inaugurated.

The 80-metre long Carrilluchayoc bridge spans the Vilcanota River at the base of Machu Picchu and will connect the village of Santa Teresa with the road up the peak, lessening the time it will take tourists to reach the World Heritage site.

Locals have welcomed the bridge for opening their remote province to commerce and tourism. Instead of a treacherous 15-hour drive over mountain passes farmers can truck coffee and fruit to Cuzco in just three hours.

Others are concerned about how the 260-foot-long bridge will affect the 15th century Inca citadel, a World Heritage site. UNESCO issued a warning in 2004 about degradation of the site.


A Bridge to Machu Picchu Runs Into Problems

March 11, 2007. Source: The New York Time by Jennifer Sonlin

To some people, the nearly completed Carilluchayoc Bridge project in Peru, which would connect the small village of Santa Teresa to Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca citadel, is a bridge too far.

Fredia Castro, the mayor of the Convención province, where Santa Teresa is, believes it will bring tourist revenue to the 200,000 residents of the province, who are as much as a 15-hour drive from Machu Picchu, a World Heritage site. Others are concerned about how the 260-foot-long bridge will affect the archaeological ruins, particularly since Unesco issued a warning in 2004 about degradation of the site. Now the opening of the bridge appears to be stalled.

“The situation with the bridge is very controversial and involves a number of different government organizations,” said Elisabeth Hakim, North American markets coordinator for PromPeru, a government commission responsible for promoting Peru.

With around 2,500 visitors a day, some believe there are already too many tourists roaming around Machu Picchu destroying not just the ruins, but also the flora and fauna. They say the bridge could double that number of daily visitors and further endanger the site.

The easiest and fastest way to reach Machu Picchu from the city of Cuzco is by taking the PeruRail train, operated by Orient-Express Hotels. The starting price of a one-way ticket is $46. With the bridge, the cost of a bus trip from Cuzco would be the equivalent of about $4.

“It is still going to be a long way to go by bus,” said Luca Newbold, managing director of Llama Travel, which specializes in trips to Peru. “It will still take seven or eight hours versus three and a half on the train. It does not ease access that much, and I can only see a small number of people choosing that option.”

Nuria Sanz, an official of Unesco’s World Heritage Center, said a mission will go to Machu Picchu in April to monitor the state of conservation and that local, regional and national experts also planned to examine the situation.

Victoria Legg, a spokeswoman for Orient-Express, which will face new competition on transport to the area if the bridge is opened, said: “Our main priority is that the site is managed and preserved for the people of Peru and for international visitors for centuries to come.”



A Bridge stirs the waters in Machu Picchu
In the year that Peru is trying to get Machu Picchu voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, there are growing tensions over the country's greatest tourist attraction.

February 1, 2007. Source: BBC News, Peru by Dan Collyns

A former mayor has built a bridge which creates a new route to the World Heritage site, threatening to bring more tourists and, some say, open up a new route for drug traffickers.

The 80-metre long Carilluchayoc bridge, which crosses the Vilcanota river near the base of the 15th-Century Inca citadel, is to be inaugurated in February, despite a court order prohibiting its construction and protests from the government and environmentalists.

There is concern that - with around 2,500 visitors a day - there are already too many tourists tramping around the ruins. The UN's cultural division, Unesco, is due to inspect the site this year to decide whether it should be classed as an endangered heritage site.

But the former mayor of La Convencion province, Fedia Castro, whose term ended recently, says the village of Santa Teresa needs the bridge to end its isolation and bring commerce and tourism.

The villagers currently have to undertake a 15-hour journey along treacherous roads to take their agricultural produce to market in the regional capital, Cuzco. The bridge will allow them to take it by lorry in just three hours.



The bridge has strong support in La Convencion province and across the region from people who believe the inhabitants of Santa Teresa should be able to benefit from Cuzco region's booming tourism industry.

The companies... are thinking of profit. My task is to give to the next generation the opportunity to continue seeing this wonder for the centuries to come

David Ugarte
Cusco National Cultural Institute
But there are others who have voiced concern, particularly those charged with protecting Peru's archaeological and cultural heritage.

The director of Cuzco's National Cultural Institute, David Ugarte, says he is not opposed to the bridge in principle but he is worried about the potential increase in tourism.

"We don't deny that they need a proper road for this area, but the mayor's slogan that it's 'the bridge or death' lacks credibility and seriousness," he says.

Mr Ugarte says the site was not designed for the number of tourists who now visit it and could not sustain more.

"The companies... are thinking of profit. My task is to give to the next generation the opportunity to continue seeing this wonder for the centuries to come," he says.

"The tourism companies take around 2,500 people up there every day. They want to take 5,000 a day or more. If that happens, in 10 years' time there will be no longer be a Machu Picchu. It's not only part of our heritage, it's part of humanity's."

'Proper management'

There is currently only one route to Machu Picchu from the city of Cuzco and that is by train. PeruRail, which is owned by the British company Orient Express Hotels has had a monopoly on transport through the Sacred Valley since 1999. Tourists can pay between $70 (£35) and $450 for a return trip.

The bridge is due to be completed in February
But when the Carilluchayoc bridge is completed, backpackers will be able to take a $4 bus ride to the foot of the site using a different route.

Patricio Zucconi, who manages the Orient Express-run Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel, says with proper management the site could sustain many more tourists.

He says the Inca ruins simply need more than one entrance and exit point and he estimates as many as 4,000 visitors could come and go every day.

"The problem is the way Machu Picchu is managed. There are too many state bodies in charge of it," he says.

Mr Zucconi warns without proper controls on the bridge, the flora and fauna in the national park which surrounds the ruins will suffer because of the increased number of tours.

But Orient Express Hotels has angered some local leaders.

"They just take all the money out of the region," says the newly-elected Regional President of Cusco, Hugo Gonzales.

"The constitution of Peru prohibits monopolies. PeruRail has a monopoly because 92% of the tourists who visit Machu Picchu go by the railway."

Mr Gonzales says he fully supports the building of the bridge but the company has opposed it because it wants to hold on to its monopoly on the rail route.


More visitors

The problem dates back to 1998 when the old village of Santa Teresa, located near the railway, was destroyed in a landslide. The villagers were forced to relocate when the government refused to rebuild it.

Despite its opposition to the bridge, the government has done nothing to prevent its building.

Officials have said the bridge will provide a new route for cocaine traffickers in La Convencion province, which is under a state of emergency because of its coca production.

Mr Gonzales acknowledges there may be a drug-trafficking problem but says without the bridge the villagers are forced to carry their produce by foot for miles.

"It's not acceptable that there are big profits for the owners of the railway line and hotels, yet five minutes from Cuszo we have extreme poverty," he said.

A spokeswoman for Orient Express Hotels, Yasmine Martin, says her company rescued the site from mismanagement by the regional authorities and provides community projects, employment and rubbish collection.

"We provide a subsidised train service for the local people twice a day at the cost of $800,000 a year," she says. " Show me the company which offers even $10,000 year for the local population"

With the imminent opening of the bridge there is every indication that 2007 will bring more visitors to Machu Picchu.

As the various companies and state bodies struggle for dominion over this once-lost city, it seems that ultimately no-one wants to kill the goose which lays the golden egg.


Fears for Machu Picchu as mayor builds easy-access bridge
Move to help local economy could bring more visitors and aid cocaine smuggling
A new road bridge to the base of the mountain citadel will cut journey times to the Unesco-listed site but has heightened fears of it being swamped by backpackers.

December 27, 2006. Source: The Guardian by Rory Carroll in Cuzco

A Peruvian mayor has built a bridge leading to Machu Picchu, Peru's Inca citadel, despite warnings it will wreck the archaeological gem and open a route for drug smugglers. The 80-metre (260ft) long bridge over the Vilcanota river is due to open this week in defiance of a court order and protests from the government, which fears hordes of backpackers will swamp the site.

The UN conservation agency Unesco is due in February to inspect the mountaintop ruins, a world heritage site deep in the Andean jungle, amid concern that there are already too many visitors. But Fedia Castro, mayor of Convención province, said the bridge would end her community's isolation and give tourists a cheaper option than a train which, until now, had a monopoly on transport through the Sacred Valley. "It's almost ready, so they can't stop it," she said.

Locals have welcomed the bridge for opening their remote province to commerce and tourism. Instead of a treacherous 15-hour drive over mountain passes farmers can truck coffee and fruit to Cuzco in just three hours.

The bridge, 12 miles from Machu Picchu at the town of Santa Theresa, replaces one washed away in a 1998 flood but which the government refused to rebuild. "We begged and shouted but they ignored us," said Ms Castro. The municipal and provincial authorities of Convención started building in January, using £570,000 of public funds. The final touches are being put in place.

The National Institute of Natural Resources filed a criminal complaint against Ms Castro last month after she ignored a court injunction demanding a halt to construction. Deputy tourism minister Alfonso Salcedo called the mayor reckless: "This we will not allow."

Officials also expressed alarm that Convención, which is under a state of emergency because of its coca production, could smuggle cocaine in the fruit and coffee trucks crossing the bridge. Peru is the world's second largest cocaine producer after Colombia.

The tourism ministry did not reply to queries last week about what, if anything, would be done to stop the bridge.

Since Peru's guerrilla war ended in the 1990s the number of visitors to Machu Picchu, 310 miles south of the capital, Lima, has soared to more than 4,000 tramping around the stone citadel daily.

Conservationists warned that the ruins were under stress and that wildlife along the Inca trail was disappearing, prompting the government to limit the number of visitors to 2,500 daily. Unesco is reportedly considering naming it an endangered heritage site.

Ms Castro said other Inca sites nearby could draw many of the tourists and relieve pressure on Machu Picchu, a secret city missed by the conquistadors and unknown to the outside world until an explorer stumbled across it in 1911.

Conservation concern, she said, was a red herring to protect the monopoly of PeruRail, part of Orient Express Hotels, which has operated the line since 1999. Every day hundreds of foreigners pay from £33 to £230, depending on how much luxury they want, for a return trip. With the bridge backpackers can take a £2.30 bus ride to the foot of the site.

The mayor alleged, but offered no proof, that three executives offered her a £255,000 bribe in 2003 to forget the bridge. A PeruRail spokesman, Gonzolo Rojas, rejected the claim.

Ms Castro lost her post in elections last month and is due to step down next week. She has disputed the election result. The new mayor has supported the bridge.



A bridge to Machu Picchu? Peruvian mayor vows to keep building one despite court order

November 10, 2006. Source: Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — A local Peruvian mayor defended her decision to defy a court order and continue construction of a bridge that would create an alternate route to the mountaintop Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

"I am willing to go to jail," Fredia Castro, mayor of Convencion province, told reporters in Lima. She has been under intense fire from the central government, which fears a completed bridge spanning the Vilcanota River, 12 miles northwest of the ruins, could land Peru's biggest tourist destination on UNESCO's list of endangered World Heritage sites.

Castro argued the bridge would open her province, home to more than 200,000 residents, to tourism. She said it also would break the "monopoly" of PeruRail, owned by the Bermuda-based Orient Express Hotels Ltd., which has operated train service — the only mass transit available — to the archaeological site since 1999.


Machu Picchu not on 'UNESCO's World Heritage in Danger' list

July 19, 2006. Source: Living in Peru

Machu Picchu, Lost City of the IncasThe Committee of UNESCO's World Heritage Center has decided not to include Peru's Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu in the "World Heritage in Danger" list. Nevertheless, the center will closely follow the initiatives of the Peruvian State for its preservation of the Incan city, because it disregarded UNESCO's recommendations in the last three years.

One of the bigger problems the archaeological park faces is the construction of the Carrilluchayoc bridge, which will connect the district of Santa Teresa with the ancient site. According to the Law of Protected Areas and the Law of Cultural Heritage, constructions in this area are prohibited.

However, the municipalities of Santa Teresa and the province of La Convención continue with the viaduct's construction, disregarding a judicial resolution issued by the Penal Court of Urubamba to immediately suspend all works.

Local authorities reject concerns that the bridge harms Machu Picchu's sanctity and untouchable status but improve the infrastructure for transporting agricultural products of Santa Teresa's farmers.


Machu Picchu threatened by bridge
Local authorities say the bridge is needed to transport agricultural products toward other markets
July 18, 2006. Source: Spero News.

  A bridge being built over the river Urubamba, below the archeological site of Machu Picchu, could risk the famous ‘lost city of the Inca’ from being listed as one of the UNESCO ‘Treasures of Humanity’.

“Such a decision would be a hard blow for tourism” said Fernando Astete, manager of the Machu Picchu site, referring to the concerns expressed in a note received from UNESCO, which says that in the past two years, the bridge “could promote the rise of new inhabited centers that will contribute to the deteriorating conditions of the site and the surrounding nature, which are already clearly evident.”

The bridge worksite, wanted by the administration of the Santa Teresa district, is located eight km. from Aguas Calientes, the village at the foot of the mountain upon which Macchu Picchu is located.

Local authorities say the bridge is needed to transport agricultural products toward other markets, but the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (Irena) and the Ministry of Tourism say that the construction company has never received the authorization to proceed and it also never provided an environmental impact plan.

A court in Cuzco has already demanded the termination of the work and sent a police patrol to prevent the bridge form being built, despite the fact that the law demands at least ten years in jail for those responsible of an “attack against the cultural treasure of the country.”



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Last updated: April 12, 2007