Peru’s famous Machu Picchu has opened after months of coronavirus closure for just a single visitor – a Japanese tourist stranded in the country by the pandemic.
Jesse Takayama’s entry into the ruins came thanks to a special request the 26-year-old submitted while stranded since March in the town of Aguas Calientes, on the slopes of the mountains near the site.
‘The first person on Earth who went to Machu Picchu since the lockdown is meeeeeee,’ Katayama posted on his Instagram account alongside pictures of himself at the deserted site.
Jesse Katayama, a 26-year-old boxing instructor from the Japanese city of Nara, has become the first tourist to visit the iconic Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru after he was stranded in a nearby village for months amid the coronavirus pandemic
‘He had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter’: Local authorities granted Katayama special permission to visit the iconic historical site, which sprawls over a mountain range, after becoming aware of his situation
‘This is truly amazing! Thank you,’ he added in a video posted on the Facebook pages of the local tourism authority in Cusco, the closest city to the famed site.
Katayama spoke against the backdrop of the majestic mountaintop and sprawling ancient ruins that once attracted thousands of tourists a day but has been closed since March because of the coronavirus.
The Japanese boxing instructor from the city of Nara has been stuck in Peru since March, when he bought a ticket for the tourist site just days before the country declared a health emergency.
He told a Peruvian newspaper he had only planned to spend three days in the area, but with flights cancelled and movement limited by the virus, he found himself stuck in Aguas Calientes for months.
The village is known for its thermal baths but largely revolves around catering to Machu Picchu tourists.
Eventually, his plight reached the local tourism authority, which agreed to give him special permission to visit the Inca city, reopening the site just for him.
Katayama shared a series of dramatic images of his visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site on social media. It is thought he will now return to Japan
Katayama (right) visited Machu Picchu – a national park – with the head of the park, according to Peruvian Culture Minister Alejandro Neyra, after being stranded in the nearby village of Aguas Calientes since March
‘I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go, but thanks to all of you who pleaded with the mayor and the government, I was given this super special opportunity,’ he wrote in Japanese on his Instagram account.
‘He had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter,’ Culture Minister Neyra said in a virtual press conference.
‘The Japanese citizen has entered together with our head of the park so that he can do this before returning to his country.’
Machu Picchu is thought to be more than 500 years old and is the most enduring physical legacy of the Inca Empire, which ruled large swathes of western South America for a century before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Thousands of tourists like Katayama, pictured above with a guide, visited the site each day before the pandemic forced its temporary closure
Thought to have been built more than 500 years ago, Machu Picchu is the most enduring physical legacy of the Inca Empire.
The Incas ruled a large swathe of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.
The ruins of the Inca settlement were rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham, and in 1983, UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site.
It was originally scheduled to reopen to visitors in July, but the date has now been pushed back to November.
Once reopened, the site will allow just 675 tourists a day in, 30 percent of the figure allowed before the pandemic, with visitors expected to maintain social distancing.
Since it first opened to tourists in 1948, Machu Picchu has been closed just once before, for two months in 2010 when a flood destroyed the railway tracks connecting it to a station on the outskirts of Cusco.
Who were the Inca?
The Inca, also spelled Inka, were a people indigenous to South America who, at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1532, ruled an empire that spanned from the northern border of modern Ecuador to central Chile.
Establishing their capital at Cusco (a city in modern-day Peru) in the 12th century, the Inca began a campaign of expansion in the early 15th century which would see some 12 million people come under their rule.
Much of the information we have today comes from the written records of Spanish conquistadores as the Inca passed on their history through story telling and other oral traditions.
Machu Pichhu is the best-known site remaining from the Inca Empire, once the largest and richest in the Americas
Best known for the brutal practice of human sacrifice, the Inca Empire is also notable for its advanced agricultural techniques, unique art and architecture.
At its peak, the Inca Empire was the largest and richest in the Americas. Its downfall is thought to have come about through rebellion, disease and the Spanish invasion.
The most famous and perhaps best-preserved site that remains from Inca times is the citadel of Machu Picchu, located in Peru.
Source: Britannica, Ancient History Encyclopaedia