Machu Picchu, deemed by the New York Times as one of the new seven wonders of the world, is certainly still a wonder to me. Growing up, I’ve heard stories from family about their trips to Machu Picchu, and I’ve always felt tied to it through my Peruvian heritage. In the summer of 2018, I almost got to see it for myself— if not for one of the scariest experiences of my life.
My family and I went to Perú that summer to see our distant family and visit historical landmarks such as the Catedral de Lima, as well as many ancient ruins, one of them being Machu Picchu. The day after we landed in Cuzco, we got up early in the morning to make it to our train to Aguas Calientes, a town in the Urubamba River Valley where the trail to the ancient ruins begins. The train was packed with tourists from across the world; even that early in the morning you could feel the energy and excitement in each train car.
But about an hour into the train ride, the train came to a mysterious halt that had us scratching our heads for almost an hour. Eventually, we got word that a protest was taking place on the tracks at one of the stations ahead. The protest was made up of tourists who wanted to use the station that is strictly reserved for Andean locals. This set us back close to two hours just waiting for the authorities to clear the protest. Then at last, we were finally moving… but only for about five minutes before the worst happened.
The train stopped again, much to the begrudgement of everyone aboard and my family. Suddenly, the sound of metal grinding against metal filled our ears; it was quickly followed by the terrifying collision of another train into the back of ours, sending us nearly out of our seats. At first, none of us had any idea what was happening, apparent by the questions in different languages that rang throughout each train car. But then, train car attendants were outside the train running behind us, causing us to realize we must have been crashed into. Apparently the protest had caused a delay that wasn’t communicated to the next train (behind us) which caused the collision. Panic ensued everywhere, but my mom and uncle urged us to remain calm; we would just have to wait.
We waited to be evacuated for almost seven hours. Our only food was what we had brought with us, crackers and water. My mom would tell us to eat, but none of us could in a situation like that. While we waited, people were climbing out of their cars to see the wreckage. Our train car was third from the last, and the last was almost completely totaled. From what we heard, the people in the last train car flew out of their seats when we were hit. People with injuries were the first to be evacuated, many minor but some severe. We were truly lucky to be in a far enough train car with no injuries, and for my whole family to be together through it all.
After those seven hours we were finally evacuated. To say I’m disappointed that I did not get to see Machu Picchu is an understatement, but I’m more than ever thankful that my family and I were safe and had each other through that unforgettable experience.