New bridge gives backpackers cheap backdoor entry to Machu Picchu ruins

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LIMA, Peru -- A village near Peru's famed Machu Picchu ruins has built a bridge over the turbulent Vilcanota River, opening a cheap backdoor route for adventurous, cash-strapped backpackers.

The bridge was inaugurated Saturday in the village of Santa Teresa despite the objections of government cultural experts, who fear increased tourism could threaten the UNESCO World Heritage site as hostels and restaurants spring up to serve travelers.

They also say increased tourism could imperil rare flora and fauna in the highland jungle surrounding the Inca ruins that are dramatically perched on a ridge 500 kilometers (300 miles) southeast of Lima.

But authorities in Santa Teresa, less than 20 kilometers (10 miles) from the base of the mountain on which Machu Picchu was built, are hoping the bridge will help the local economy get a piece of the tourism pie. Travelers would have to spend the night in the village before continuing on to Machu Picchu.

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