Sitting down with a beer at the end of a long day of hiking is one of the most universally gratifying feelings out there. Yet when one finds oneself at the Earth’s most remote corners, simply locating said beverage is a triumph in and of itself. Such was the appeal of the Wiñay Wayna Pub, a bare-bones, legendary watering hole whose reputation echoed around the world thanks to trekkers aided by porters and local guides. traversing Peru’s famed Inca Trail.
Owned by an Italian by the name of Mario Caruso, the pub was modest even in its heyday. Situated by the Wiñay Wayna ruins along Peru’s famed Inca Trail, the bar was decorated with a few, ever-ubiquitous Coca-Cola signs and one or two bearing Caruso’s name. Plastic furniture filled the space, and though the lighting was unflattering, nobody cared. A token system allowed patrons to fetch their own beverages from coolers of Cusqueñas beer or soda machines. It may not sound like much on paper, but it hit the spot for years — perhaps too well.
Despite its extremely remote location, the pub’s downfall will sound familiar to anyone who’s visited bars catering to masses of tourists. The fault didn’t lay with the staff or locals as some have suggested (although Caruso was ultimately apprehended for tax evasion), but rather the irresponsible tourists themselves. Drunken backpackers were picking fights with each other, fighting over issues of national pride and using broken bottles as weapons, sometimes assaulting their own porters. As backpackers elected to party all night, they often slept through wake-up calls, thereby missing the entire reason they had, theoretically, visited the region. In the end, the government shut down the bar because, in the words of Edwar Pacheco, a guide who has led groups along the Inca Trail for seven years, “tourists were selling cocaine to each other.” Everyone agreed the “scene” had simply gotten out of hand, so it was time to put an end to Wiñay Wayna Pub.
General consensus among guides is that the pub is closed for good. One government-appointed officer remains on the scene to monitor the shuttered property, even as porters continue to make use of its amenities like running water for supply stops.
In the case of Wiñay Wayna, there’s little room for argument: this is why we can’t have nice things.