If you’ve ever been to Machu Picchu in Peru, you already know what an amazing place it is. You also probably know just how busy and crowded it can be. With more than a half-million visitors on an annual basis, the ancient Inca fortress rarely looks as quiet and empty as it does in photos.
Recently however, one traveler found himself in a unique and enviable position. Thanks to the current state of affairs in the world, he was given the chance to explore Machu Picchu completely on his own, without any the throngs of people who are normally wandering about the site.
Stranded by COVID
Back in March, Jesse Katayama of Nara, Japan had embarked on what he thought was his dream trip. The 26-year old had flown to South America, where we was exploring the country of Peru just as the coronavirus was starting to take hold. In fact, he arrived in the town of Aguas Caliente on March 14, just as things started to shutdown.
As with much of the rest of the world, Peru quickly went into quarantine and restricted travel, stranding Katayama in the small town, which serves as the gateway to one of the most popular and visited tourist destinations on the planet—Machu Picchu.
The young Japanese adventurer had planned on visiting the famous archaeological site on March 16. He had even purchased a ticket ahead of time. But when Peru went into lockdown, Machu Picchu closed its doors as well. Katayama found himself unable to visit the place he had come so far to see, but he couldn’t go home either.
Seven Months in Aguas Calientes
For the past seven months, Jesse has been living in Aguas Calientes. He managed to find a room at an affordable rate and has settled in with the locals. To pass the time, he has taught some of the children in town how to box and he has made short day trips to nearby attractions. For the most part however, he’s had to remain locked in place, waiting out the lifting of the travel ban.
Reportedly, Katayama is an avid fitness buff who has plans of opening his own gym once he returns to Japan. To help pass the time—and stay in shape—he went for daily runs throughout the city and the surrounding countryside. On many of those runs, he could see Machu Picchu in the distance. Almost as if it was taunting him.