69537192 - machu picchu ruins in peru

There have been some harrowing travel tales throughout the pandemic, with borders closing right in front of people, leaving many around the globe stranded, or unable to re-enter their home country. But it’d be hard to top the story of a Japanese tourist who planned to visit Machu Picchu in mid March, only to find himself becoming a de-facto local for the last 7 months, without any chance to leave the country, or visit the park.

Peru closed off all international flights at a moments notice, leaving visitors with few options, and dreams of seeing one of the great cultural sites of the world turned into a nightmare when the park closed.

Jesse Katayama, a Japanese traveler from Osaka, had a March 16th ticket to Machu Picchu when flights shut down and the park closed. 7 months later, Jesse has been renting a room in Aguas Calientes, nearby the storied world heritage site, waiting for international flights to finally reopen. Sadly, in the entire 7 months his park admission ticket was never realized, after officials shut down Machu Picchu.

But with international flights set to reopen in Peru, and news of this epic travel struggle spreading, Machu Picchu officials made sure Jesse’s last day in Peru may be one of his greatest ever, giving him the entire UNESCO World Heritage site all to himself, ahead of his departure back to Japan in just a few days time. Naturally, it went viral.

Katayama was accompanied by two photographers to document the unprecedented access to the park, as well as Jose Bastante, the boss of Machu Picchu, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pre-booked ticket slots have been essential at Machu Picchu in recent years as officials aim to keep natural resources in tact despite over tourism. Covid-19 took care of those woes, with months of park closures.

It may not have been the trip he planned, or the one he budgeted for – 7 months of rent couldn’t have been easy on a 26 year old tourist budget – but unfettered access to one of the world’s greatest cultural sites sure ain’t a bad send off.

Peru reopened for international flights on October 5th, but it’s currently unclear whether arrivals will be permitted exclusively for business travel, or if tourists will once again be allowed. For all visitors not named Jesse Katayama, the site remains closed.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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