Rapid City couple stuck in Peru among political unrest, protests
PERU — It’s not the honeymoon they had in mind: the Mastins headed to Machu Picchu at the beginning of last week, hoping to adventure and celebrate their recent marriage. A few days into the trip, protests broke out in the Machu Picchu area, blocking roadways and trapping visitors.
Protests follow the impeachment and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo, who had announced a plan to dissolve the Peruvian Congress. The Mastins shared their experience from a hotel in Lima, after days of hiking out of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area.
Protests and violence begin
The Rapid City pair started a four day, three night Inca Trail hike with a tour group on Monday, Dec. 12, aware of some governmental issues that hadn’t yet seemed to be a widespread issue.
“It’s fairly long and high in elevation, so no one (including our guide) had cell coverage,” the Mastins explain. “On Wednesday, our guides found out protestors had become violent and began creating blockades to prohibit foreigners such as ourselves from escaping or entering Machu Picchu.”
Transportation gets interrupted
Protestors placed rocks and boulders on the train tracks that lead into Aguas Calientes, the town used to get into and leave Machu Picchu. This prevented the tourists from getting transportation back to towns or airports.
“We were told the country was on lockdown and in a state of emergency. All transportation was canceled to include flights.”
With no way to leave the area, the Mastins hiked out on foot.
“We ended up hiking several miles through the Andes after seeing Machu Picchu, and staying in Aguas Calientes. Everything was unknown,” they said.
Here, the couple decided to buy the next flight tickets they could find.
“We decided to risk it and buy tickets out on Sunday [Dec. 18] due to the danger and civil unrest. The flight out was crazy expensive, about $2,500.”
Tour groups hike dozens of miles to buses
Still, the group had no transportation out of the area to Cusco, Peru, where they hoped to be able to get a flight out.
“Our guides and the group decided we would walk the train tracks out of Aguas Calientes in hopes of finding our transportation back into Cusco, since Aguas Calientes is only accessible by train or helicopter (no roads),” the Mastins explain.
The Mastins say it was no easy trek.
“We walked roughly 18 miles through the Andes Mountains to get to a town where we were hoping our buses would pick us up. The protestors had blocked the road for many, many miles ahead of us unfortunately, so we ended up walking about seven or eight more miles on the roadway (after hiking four days of extreme terrain). I think altogether we walked about 12 straight hours to escape Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes. There was no water, food, or emergency services whatsoever where we were at in the middle of the Andes. Some small villages were offering provisions for sale.”
Bus rides interrupted by protests
There, they encountered a group of protestors, avoiding them until national police cleared a way for the buses to pick the group up. The Mastins explain that the road back to Cusco was still filled with unrest.
“On the bus ride back to Cusco, we still encountered protestors our guide had to negotiate with, and numerous roadblocks preventing tourists from escaping. Eventually we were able to make it back to Cusco, where there was some more peaceful protests.”
Heading back home
The Mastins were able to take their Sunday flight to Lima, and made it safely out of the country.
“It’s been a wild couple of days,” the Mastins said.
They plan on staying at a resort for a few days on their way home to enjoy what’s left of their honeymoon.