ORLANDO, Florida / Orlando Sentinel / May 12, 2011
Machu Picchu takes your breath away
We had come by bus from Cusco, the high-up-in-the-Andes capital of the Inca empire, which, at its peak in the mid-1500s, had 12 million people.
Copyright Photo Courtesy: brynanoel.com
The empire's end came when the Spanish tromped through, hungry for gold and killing everyone in sight to get it. (You go to South America and you don't come away with a fondness for the Spanish or for the Catholic Church.) The conquistadors didn't destroy Machu Picchu only because they didn't find it. The city, later obscured by years of jungle growth, was known to locals but wasn't visited by outsiders until the early 20th century.
It is on most lists of the top man-made wonders of the world — it boggles the mind to think how workers toted the huge stones that make up the buildings and terraces to the heights, especially because the Incas did not have the wheel. They did use pulleys, and they were adept engineers when it came to flood prevention and water retention.
Machu Picchu (Photo below) is a place to climb and gawk, but it's also a place to sit and think and to listen (to birds and to the rushing Urubamba River way below). Interestingly, I did not see any litter or graffiti; that's how much the site is respected.
These are the isles Charles Darwin visited in 1835 — before he wrote "The Origin of Species" — an archipelago containing fascinating giant tortoises, assorted lizards and iguanas, finches and blue-footed boobies, equatorial penguins and scads of California sea lions, not to mention dazzling sunsets and a striking serenity.
Learning experiences: South Americans are smiling and friendly (if a bit aggressive in their peddling activities); you must put your used toilet tissue in the wastepaper can, not the toilet bowl (!); that pet guinea pig is just as likely to become the
My advice: If you're going to visit Machu Picchu or walk the many Inca trails or swelter in the Galapagos, do it while you're young.
And if you can find any airport other than the hellish one in Miami to go through, do it.
E-Mail: Commander Coconut
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