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Galapagos

  • from: http://graphicmaps.com/webimage/countrys/samerica/galap.htm Sitting right atop the Equator, approximately 600 miles directly west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands had no original inhabitants. Reportedly in the 17th and 18th centuries, ocean pirates used the islands as rendezvous points, as well as for fresh food and water. Visited by the English naturalist Charles Darwin in 1835, his subsequent studies of local wildlife noted that almost all of the animals and plants here were endemic to the islands, which of course contributed to his famous theory of natural selection, and put these special islands on the map for the rest of the world to experience. The islands became Ecuador's first national park, and these now aggressively-protected islands and the surrounding marine reserve were both declared World Heritage sites.

Ecuador

  • from: http://graphicmaps.com/webimage/countrys/samerica/ec.htm The great Inca empire began its conquest of this land called Ecuador in 1463. In the early 16th century the Spanish discovered and subsequently conquered Ecuador. Sadly, the Spanish unintentionally brought with them smallpox and measles, diseases that, over time, all but wiped out much of the indigenous Indian population. The struggle for freedom was bloody, difficult and very long, but independence was finally achieved in 1830, and over the next 140 years a series of military and political groups ruled the land. The indigenous populations mixed with those of European descent give Ecuador a unique cultural texture. It's a very friendly country, known for warm, welcoming hospitality.

Otavalo

  • I really lke the hats
    Otavalo was the first place we saw large numbers of people dressed in traditional clothing. According to the book, the Otavaleños are among the most successful groups in Ecuador, famous for their weaving which they export all over the world. This woman still charged us to take her picture.

Cotacachi

  • Img_2234
    Laguna de Cuicocha is an eroded volcanic crater on the lower slopes of Volcán Cotacachi. I don't think it's quite as pretty as Crater Lake, in Oregon, but I may have been biased by my inability to breathe ... remember, our hike started at around 8000 ft and went up from there.

sun and shadow

  • Kiosk
    When I was a kid, I was told that, at noon, the sun is directly overhead. And that's true ... but not in Minnesota or anywhere in the US. It's only true in the area between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, and then only sometimes. It was true while we were in southern Ecuador and northern Peru, and Len took the photos to prove it. Pretty interesting, I think.

baños

  • the chiva that took us on the night tour
    We climbed the Mirador de la Virgen, both to see the town from above and to get a glimpse of the volcano. It was too cloudy to see the volcano, but the town looked great.

nariz

  • Pict5526
    It's not really a train, more of a bus, that goes down la Nariz del Diablo. Plus, it was rainy ... still, it was all pretty impressive.

Peru

  • from: http://graphicmaps.com/webimage/countrys/samerica/pe.htm At one time Peru was the homeland of several prominent Andean civilizations, with the Incas certainly the most notable. The incredible Incas built astonishing mountain temples, palaces and other buildings, all with no mortar; they constructed almost 10,000 miles of roads; engineered functional bridges, and built aqueducts to transport their water. At the zenith of the Inca's influence in 1532, the Spanish conquistadors arrived in their quest for gold and other riches; they executed the proud but over-matched indigenous Indians and their leaders like ants, captured their cities - and in a brief period of time this innovative and powerful culture was scattered to the wind and all but destroyed. For almost three hundred years Peru functioned as a Spanish colony, but in the early 19th century native discontent and colonist revolts brought calls of independence, localized uprisings, and then, civil war in 1821, with the Spanish finally defeated in 1824.

Puerto Maldonado

  • Pict6978
    This is a shot of the Puerto Maldonado area, showing the complicated system of rivers and streams that flows into the Amazon.

cuzco

  • Cuzco is a lovely city, tucked into a valley in the Andes at 11600 feet. from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/273: "Situated in the Peruvian Andes, Cuzco developed, under the Inca ruler Pachacutec, into a complex urban centre with distinct religious and administrative functions. It was surrounded by clearly delineated areas for agricultural, artisan and industrial production. When the Spaniards conquered it in the 16th century, they preserved the basic structure but built Baroque churches and palaces over the ruins of the Inca city." It now has modern overlays, but continues to be a fascinating city of many traditions. Len took this picture from the hill of the White Christ, which overlooks the city.

sacred valley

  • (Our route is marked in red.) The Urubamba Valley is also known as “El Valle Sagrado de los Incas”, or the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is a laid back valley near Cusco with a very pleasant climate perfectly suited for farming. Ancient ruins, gentle mountain slopes and scattered farming towns define the valley. The same properties that make the valley attractive for today’s tourist were also the reason why the Inca chose this valley for their permanent settlements. The valley also served as a gateway to the jungle and was easily defendable by Ollantaytambo to the northwest and Rumicolca to the southeast. from http://www.opentravelinfo.com/travel_guide/south_america/peru/andean/urubamba_valley_the_sacred_valley_of_the_incas

chinchero

  • Pict7277
    Chinchero is a small town, located about 20 miles from Cuzco (at 12342 feet above sea level), which is known for its colorful Sunday market. The church dates from the early 17 century, and was built on top of an earlier Inca temple. The ruins stretch for miles around the town, but consist mostly of terraces.

pisaq

  • Pict7404
    Another small town near Cuzco, Pisaq also has a colorful market (how do we always arrive on market day?), and Inca ruins spread out over the mountains above the town.

ollantaytambo

  • Pict7583
    This picture seems very characteristic of Peru ... Inca ruins above, precolonial streets below, traditional Spanish roofs, and a sign advertising national/international calls. What a mixture! There seem to be two sets of ruins in Ollantaytambo. There is this set, high up on the mountain on one side of town and accessible only with some difficulty. Then, on the other side of town, there is a protected and easily accessible set. We admired these ruins and visited the others.

Machu Picchu

  • The classic view of Machu Picchu, taken from near the watchman's hut. The mountain in the back right is Huanupicchu. We climbed that!