But after an unexpected seven-month stay in Peru, Katayama finally removes “Visit Machu Picchu” from his bucket list – and he was able to enjoy being the only tourist there.
Katayama, a native of Osaka, Japan, arrived in Aguas Calientes on March 14th – the city from which most people begin their Machu Picchu expeditions.
He already had his ticket and permission to enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site in hand on March 16, but it was at that time that the Peruvian government decided to close the site. Katayam was stranded.
Since then, 26-year-old Katayama, a boxing instructor, has been a local in Aguas Calientes, where he has been renting a small room for seven months.
Although border closings have deterred him from visiting other South American countries, he made the most of his experience by exploring local landmarks like Putucusi Mountain and Calientes Waterfalls. He even gave boxing classes to some of the local kids and made friends in his random new hometown.
Katayama tells CNN that his goal is to open his own boxing hall when he returns to Osaka. He used his embargo to practice his moves.
“I go running every morning and I was able to see Machu Picchu from a distance,” Katayama told CNN. “I thought I would never make it to Machu Picchu as I wasn’t expecting it to open this year. But I agreed because I had a great time here. “
The Inca Citadel in more typical circumstances.
CRIS BOURONCLE / AFP / AFP / Getty Images
However, when he ran out of money it looked like Katayama would have to return to Japan without ever using his Machu Picchu ticket.
Step into Andean Roots Peru, a local tour company. With the help of the national ministry of culture, Katayama received special permission to enter Machu Picchu – and have the normally crowded place almost entirely to themselves. He was accompanied by two photographers who documented the experience and by Jose Bastante, the site’s boss.
In a solemn Instagram post, Katayama wrote, “I thought I would never make it (to Machu Picchu), but everyone asked the government and the city and they played me a very special permit.” He added, “Peruvians are soooo nice . Many Thanks!”
He tells CNN that he will be leaving Peru for Japan on October 16. As he prepares for the trip home, he says goodbye to the citizens who have become his friends in recent months. Several local children have drawn katayama pictures and made a doll for him from toilet paper rolls.
“I will definitely cry,” he says of saying goodbye to Aguas Calientes. “These seven months were very special for me. I’ve discovered a new part of myself. “
“The Japanese citizen entered together with our park manager so he could do this before returning to his country,” Peru’s Minister of Culture Alejandro Neyra confirmed to reporters.
Neyra added that there are plans to reopen Machu Picchu to visitors with 30% capacity but did not provide an exact date.
CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki contributed to the coverage.
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