After a seven-month wait, this tourist got Machu Picchu just for himself

Jesse Katayama planned to complete a trip around the world at 8,000 meters above sea level in Machu Picchu, a spacious 15th-century Inca citadel high in the Andes mountains.

Then came the coronavirus that Mr. Katayamu, a 26-year-old Japanese citizen, ran aground in Peru and closed tourist sites as a blockade was imposed across the country.

On Sunday, after seven months of waiting, Mr Katayama finally visited a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And except for a few guides, he got it all for himself.

“After the lock, the first man to visit Machu Picchu was meeeeeee,” he wrote in a post on Instagram that included photos of him with a park representative.

Alejandro Neyra, Peruvian culture minister, told a news conference Monday that Mr Katayami was granted special access to the site in recognition of his patience.

“He came to Peru with a dream that he could enter,” Mr. Neyra said. “A Japanese citizen entered along with our park chief so he could do so before returning to his country.”

Before the pandemic, Machu Picchu welcomed thousands of visitors daily. Tourists usually have to apply for permission to enter the Inca Trail leading to the ancient fortress months in advance.

Mr. Katayama’s original pass was scheduled for March 16, and he arrived two days earlier, in Aguas Calientes, a town at the foot of the mountain.

But two days turned into weeks, and then into months. He rented a small apartment in the city and spent time attending daily yoga classes, teaching local children how to box and learning for various certification exams in fitness and sports nutrition.

He wrote on a crowdfunding website in 2019 that he dreamed of opening a boxing gym in Japan and wanted to travel the world to learn the best approaches from each country. Before reaching Peru, he taught boxing in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya.

Mr Katayama told Japanese news that he was considering joining emergency evacuation flights organized by the Japanese government in the spring, but that they were too expensive. He eventually decided to stay, postponing his departure in hopes that Machu Picchu would reopen soon.

His patience eventually paid off, and last week he became a bit of a local star when La República,, the main Peruvian brooch, covered his vigil and invited him “The last tourist in Machu Picchu.”

“I was left with the sole purpose of meeting this miracle and I didn’t want to leave without doing it,” he told the newspaper in a separate interview.

The news of his persistence resulted in hundreds of well-wishers offering to apply to the authorities on his behalf, he said on Instagram.

Mr Neyra, the culture minister, said authorities had received a visitor’s request for Mr Katayam and decided to grant him special access before his return to Japan.

The pandemic has devastated Peru’s tourism industry, the country’s third-largest revenue generator. The industry employs more than 1.3 million workers, or nearly 8 percent of the country’s workforce The Lima Chamber of Commerce said in 2018. When travel stopped, most of those jobs were lost.

Peru has also reported an increasing number of coronavirus cases and more than 33,000 deaths.

Mr. Neyras said that seven archeological sites in Cusco, a city in the Andes, would open for small groups with a capacity of 30 percent on Thursday. The reopening date of Machu Picchu has yet to be announced.

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