South America, Part 1

Stewart and I just returned from a three-week adventure trip to South America.  Machu Picchu in Peru, specifically, and then the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.  

Machu Picchu (MP) was The Citadel of the Incan Empire, and was at the time a magnificent feat of engineering and human ingenuity situated at a most impossible location in the Peruvian Andes.   While one of their more visually stunning accomplishments, MP was one of many structures and communities the Incans built across their empire that at one time spanned most of the South American coast and stretched far inland.  

Below is a photo of one of their mortarless walls, with each boulder cut and fitted so exactingly to one another that you can scarcely insert a piece of paper between them, 600 years after they were built.  

The famous 12-sided stone in an Incan wall in Cusco, Peru

The famous 12-sided stone in an Incan wall in Cusco, Peru

There are a hundred stories as to why the walls were built the way they are, to include making them nearly impervious to earthquakes, and some that explain why there are small boulders at the bottom of the wall instead of the top.  

You can probably find more stunning photos of MP on the web, but armed with iPhones and a GoPro, here's one of our better ones: 

The photo does not begin to capture the enormity and complexity of the site, nor the far greater enormity of the mountain range in which it sits.  It is one of those things you have to see to truly appreciate.  To get a sense of the scale, the second day there we climbed the prominent mountain just behind the ruins, and it took us an hour and a half, literally going straight up its sheer side.  

The day prior we white-water rafted on the Urubamba River, which snakes through the mountain ranges and around MP itself.  Again, just spectacular scenery, punctuated with a few rapids that kept things interesting:  

I'm in the blue helmet on the left (with the GoPro camera strapped to my head), and Stewart is just behind me.  I think around the time this photo was taken our boat guide was having serious doubts about our physical acumen when it came to synchronized paddling.   Which might explain why we collided with the branches of an overhanging tree several minutes later.  

During the Peru portion of our trip I also rode a horse, in honor of my Kentucky heritage, although the horse and I were clearly not communicating very well with one another.  But that's another story.  

I will post some more photos soon, in case you are a glutton for vacation-photo punishment.