A Clumsy Tourist Who Snuck Into Machu Picchu After Hours Faces Jail Time for Accidentally Damaging the Inca Ruins

A young tourist accused of sneaking into Machu Picchu and damaging the site faces jail time, while five others who also spent an unauthorized night in the Inca complex have been deported by Peru. The group of six were arrested on Sunday morning after illegally entering the mountain-top archeological site after it had closed to the public. Their arrest sparked international headlines because the staff found human waste on the site, however, none of the overseas tourists have been accused of using the Temple of the Sun as an outdoor toilet.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nahuel Gómez, who is from Argentina, has been charged with damaging the pre-Columbian cultural heritage of Peru after a block of stone measuring just under eight inches long was found to have fallen from a wall in the temple and cracked the floor. He admitted to causing the damage at a hearing on Tuesday, according to a statement from Peru’s culture ministry. But Gómez says the damage was accidental, AFP reports. The French news agency quotes an unnamed source who says the tourist only “leant against the wall.” 

The hapless Argentine is appealing the $900 bail imposed ahead of his trial, the BBC reports. Gómez admitted to entering the archeological park illegally with five other tourists in the early hours of January 12. The five who were expelled from Peru three days later include four men and two women from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and France. They are aged between 20 and 30. 

José Bastante, the head of the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, urged the authorities to make an example of Gómez. The archaeologist has called for a “severe sanction,” claiming that the tourist has caused irreparable damage, Peruvian media reports. 

The Temple of the Sun is one of the most important and popular parts of the complex. Parts of it are closed off to the public to preserve the ruins, which overlook the citadel’s stone terraces, and the Andean mountains beyond.  

Authorities at the Unesco World Heritage Site have been struggling to manage the increasing demand to visit the Inca citadel. Abandoned in the 16th century, and unknown to all but locals, it was “rediscovered” by the Yale professor and explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. It is now Peru’s most famous tourist site, attracting around 1.6 million visitors a year. Unesco has warned that the increasing number of visitors “must be matched by an adequate management regulating access.” 

Sightseers behaving badly at the archaeological site is nothing new. In 2016, a tourist from England and one from France were arrested after posing for nude selfies. Two years later, a 24-year-old Swiss tourist, a 21-year-old from Germany, and a 26-year-old from the Netherlands were expelled from the site for the same exhibitionist behavior, though they were not detained.

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