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Morning Mist at Machu Picchu

Morning Mist at Machu Picchu

There are many spectacular sights in Peru:  pink river dolphins splashing in the Amazon River, cultural festivals with elaborate costumes in Cuzco, and an aerial view of the massively mysterious Nazca Lines. But the Peru experience that lingers in my mind took place during a quiet morning at none other than Machu Picchu. On this particular day I’d risen before dawn and entered the ancient citadel under the cover of darkness. A sea of mist surrounded the site, seeping between stone structures and hiding all other visitors from sight. Turning left and away from the main ruins, I followed the twisting stone path toward the Sun Gate, which is where the Inca Trail meets Machu Picchu. The Incas called this gateway Intipunku. For me, the 45 minute inclined walk was undeniably spiritual; I was overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and natural majesty. With the mist obscuring any sign of the ancient complex below, I was alone in the semitropical mountain range, 8,000 feet up in the air and …
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Rodent Fossils Discovered in Peru Date Back 41 Million Years

Rodent Fossils Discovered in Peru Date Back 41 Million Years

Scientists in Peru recently found the oldest rodent fossils yet discovered in South America. An international team of scientists discovered the fossils in the Peruvian Amazon and believe the teeth belonged to mouse-sized animals that lived around 41 million years ago--10 million years older than previously discovered fossils. Read the entire BBC article here. Common critters living in Peru today include the rabbit-like viscacha (pictured about at Machu Picchu), the tasty guinea pig, and the large Amazon-dwelling capybara.
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Colors and Culture in Peru’s Capital

Colors and Culture in Peru’s Capital

For the second largest desert city in the world, Lima is surprisingly colorful in the summertime. Candy-colored paragliders float through the air, pastel colonial churches withstand the test of time, and local markets display a cornucopia of tropical fruits. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 and still thriving today, Lima is the vibrant cosmopolitan capital of Peru, and it carries a weighty nickname: City of Kings. And sure enough, as I stroll along Lima’s Malecón, a coastal walkway, I truly feel like royalty. The landscape is a painter’s palette of emerald lawns, navy waves, and crystal skies. Surely a setting fit for any king. The pampering continues when one heads indoors. Lima is home to some of the country’s best 5-star hotels, including the seaside Marriott, a favorite of celebrities and luxury lovers alike. Right across the street from this artistic glass building is the up-scale shopping center LarcoMar. Built into the side of a cliff and overlooking the ocean, the complex …
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Incan Ingenuity in the Sacred Valley: Moray & Salinas

Incan Ingenuity in the Sacred Valley: Moray & Salinas

Bundled up against the icy breeze blowing from the snow-covered mountains across the valley, I was impressed. Moray may not be as monumental as Machu Picchu, or as cultural as Cuzco, but for me this often overlooked Sacred Valley destination is an example of unsurpassed Incan ingenuity. The Moray complex consists of a series of amphitheater-style terraces, spiraling downward like inverse layer cakes. Or, if you prefer cosmic comparisons, like massive inverted crop circles, eerie in their perfection. But the most impressive thing about this site is its purpose: the Incas created and used Moray as a technologically simplistic yet very effective agricultural laboratory. They experimented with crop growing patterns, soil type, optimal growing temperatures, and seed varieties much in the way agricultural-focused scientific centers do today. Moray - Kenneth Moore Climbing down to the first layer of one of the earthen bowls, at least one component of this agricultural complex becomes …
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The People and Islands of Lake Titicaca

The People and Islands of Lake Titicaca

The baby blue clear waters of Lake Titicaca make up the largest body of water in the world above 12,000 feet. Its islands are windswept, rocky landscapes, reminiscent of the Greek Isles. The moment you expect to encounter the armies of Troy in a battle of conquest, you instead find unassuming ancient Andean inhabitants quietly collecting sea reeds, catching small fish, and planting scant agricultural fields among the lake’s shores. These people have learned to live in a harsh climate. The lake itself is divided between Peru and Bolivia. Puno, which is the economic hub on the western Peruvian side of the lake, is a humble town quickly growing into a small city. The economic and social center on the southern Bolivian side of the lake is Copacabana. It’s a small quaint town that serves as a transportation center between La Paz and Puno, lying among the dry desolate altiplano that stretches between southern Columbia and Chile. South of Copacabana you will find Tiwanaku. An ancient Incan …
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Taking Time Out in Ollantaytambo

Taking Time Out in Ollantaytambo

Everywhere I look I see history. From the narrow cobblestone pathways beneath my feet to the Incan storehouses dotting the hillsides, it is inescapable I’m in a village that has been around for half a millennium. Peru as a whole certainly doesn’t lack for ancient features — Cuzco itself was the capital of the mighty Incan Empire — but the tiny Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo encompasses the true essence of antiquity persevering. Sitting in the quaint center square, stout locals with rainbow-colored skirts billowing at the waist pass me by, some selling local delicacies, but most simply going about their daily business. In the surrounding hillsides, fields are furrowed with foot-plows and the sweat of the brow, and in backyards pens, cuy scurry about, perhaps anticipating their final dinner plate destination. Continuously occupied since the 13th century — long before the arrival of the Incas and later the Spaniards — Ollantaytambo seems untouched by time. From above - Dennis …
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Volcanoes, Beaches, and Wildlife in the Galapagos

Volcanoes, Beaches, and Wildlife in the Galapagos

A picture is worth a thousand words! Recognized by many as the icon of the Galapagos, the islet of Bartolome is a product of the area’s explosive volcanic history. A short climb to the top of an overlook reveals the sublime panorama shown in the picture. From this viewpoint it is possible to gain some appreciation for the profound beauty and unique ecology of the Galapagos. Descending back down, and diving into the crystal clear waters around the Pinnacle Rock, another world is presented to us. Snorkeling through canyons of volcanic rock, a myriad of sea life envelops us. Schools of tropical fish practically brush up against us, and a baby sea lion dives in to check us out. Exploring the sea bottom, we find an enormous sea turtle sleeping, and not far away an equally healthy sting ray. The return boat trip was no less eventful, as we encountered a group of over 20 dolphins, 3 of which decided to race alongside us, and a manta ray gliding past the boat. While I cannot say that the …
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Retracing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Retracing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Rising before the sun in Cuzco, I was on my way to retracing the footsteps of the Incas.  En route, I started thinking about the significance of the journey I was about to make.  The original Inca Trail was the royal highway connecting the Incan empire, a stone-paved path reserved for the nobility and royal messengers.  At a time when overland transportation was slow and communications could take weeks, along the Inca Trail messengers travelling by foot were able to deliver messages from Cuzco to Quito (a distance of over 1000 miles) within a week. The section of the trail between Cuzco and Machu Picchu is particularly noteworthy.  When the Spanish Conquistadors came to Peru they relied heavily on the Inca Trail as their main road system.  Wishing to hide the sacred city of Machu Picchu from the invaders, the Incas destroyed a large section of the trail closest to Cuzco.  Their plan was successful, and it wasn’t until the arrival of Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century that the …
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Adventure in Manu

Adventure in Manu

An early start, we began from Cuzco, driving through cobblestone streets walled in by the fusion of Incan stones and ornate Colonial balconies.  It was not long before we were high above the city, passing the remarkable fortress of Sacsayhuaman.  Periodically shepherds passed by with their herds, and small towns dotting the route were just coming to life.  After a stop for breakfast in Pisaq, we followed a deep canyon to one of the last Andean outposts, Paucartambo, a picturesque village situated on the river banks.  Less than an hour later, we stood, enveloped in clouds, at the gates of the Manu Biosphere Reserve. Manu Cloud Forest Manu is renowned for being one of the largest and most diverse ecosystems in the world.  It covers an area of almost 20,000 square kilometers, ranges in altitude from 150 to over 3500 meters above sea level, and is home to more than 15,000 species of plants and 1,000 species of birds.  Due to its inaccessibility and strict limitations on use, the park …
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A Day at the Pisaq Market

A Day at the Pisaq Market

The long steps that lead down from the impressive Inca citadel take you right into Pisaq’s central plaza and into the hustle and bustle of the market. Pisaq itself was one of the Inca Empire’s most important fortresses located a day’s march (1 hour by car) from the ancient capital at Cuzco. As the Inca Royalty retreated from Cuzco after the Spanish invasion, Pisaq was a critical outpost where much of the Empire’s top brass found refuge and planned their next steps on how to save the dying Empire. Today Pisaq is a thriving Andean town that has retained much of its traditional way of life. Women are dressed in hand woven shawls colored in radiant yellows and reds.  Their heads are adorned with the traditional flattened square hat that is bestowed upon young girls at the early age of 3 in a ceremony dating back to Pre-Colombian times. The variety of vegetables, fruit and local spices complement the vibrant colors of the clothing. Bright greens and deep oranges from the ground local …
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