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Peru adventures

The Andes form a spectacular but intimidating backbone to the South American continent; peaks often measure better than 20,000 feet in height.  The mountain chain runs north and south through Peru

In 1911, U.S. explorer, Hiram Bingham, following a local farmer's directions, cut his way to what is now Machu Picchu.  There is no agreement on why the city was built or why it was abandoned, but it continues to inspire awe, if not understanding.

The largest Andean city, Cuzco, is not just 'mile high,' but better than TWO miles high.  North American visitors can suffer from altitude sickness and often have difficulty  adjusting to the thin air.

Excavation
James Rollins.
New York : William Morrow, 2011.
Explore the wildly inventive, thrill-ride adventure set deep in the mysterious jungles of South America, in this special hardcover edition from "New York Times"-bestselling author Rollins.
     
In the shadow of melting glaciers : climate change and Andean society
Mark Carey.
New York : Oxford University Press, 2010.
Climate change is producing profound changes globally. Yet we still know little about how it affects real people in real places on a daily basis because most of our knowledge comes from scientific studies that try to estimate impacts and project future climate scenarios. This book isdifferent, illustrating in vivid detail how people in the Andes have grappled with the effects of climate change and ensuing natural disasters for more than half a century. In Peru's Cordillera Blanca mountain range, global climate change has generated the world's most deadly glacial lake outburstfloods and glacier avalanches, killing 25,000 people since 1941. As survivors grieved, they formed community organizations to learn about precarious glacial lakes while they sent priests to the mountains, hoping that God could calm the increasingly hostile landscape. Meanwhile, Peruvian engineersworking with miniscule budgets invented innovative strategies to drain dozens of the most unstable lakes that continue forming in the twenty first century.But adaptation to global climate change was never simply about engineering the Andes to eliminate environmental hazards. Local urban and rural populations, engineers, hydroelectric developers, irrigators, mountaineers, and policymakers all perceived and responded to glacier melting differently -based on their own view of an ideal Andean world. Disaster prevention projects involved debates about economic development, state authority, race relations, class divisions, cultural values, the evolution of science and technology, and shifting views of nature. Over time, the influx of new groups tomanage the Andes helped transform glaciated mountains into commodities to consume. Locals lost power in the process and today comprise just one among many stakeholders in the high Andes-and perhaps the least powerful. Climate change transformed a region, triggering catastrophes while simultaneouslyjumpstarting modernization processes. This book's historical perspective illuminates these trends that would be ignored in any scientific projections about future climate scenarios.
     
Ghosts of Machu Picchu : inside the Incan city in the clouds
a production of Nova and National Geographic Television ; produced by Owen Palmquist and Ricardo Preve.
[Arlington, Va.] : PBS, [2010]
  1. DVD, widescreen.
  2. Closed captioned; described video for the visually impaired.
  3. Title from container.
  4. Narrator, Craig Sechler.
  5. Videodisc release of an episode of the television series, Nova, produced in 2009.
  6. "In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this Lost city of the Incas, yet it remains an enigma. NOVA joins a new generation of archaeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven't been touched since the time of the Incas and unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site"--Container.
     
Monuments of the Incas
text by John Hemming ; photographs by Edward Ranney.
New York : Thames & Hudson, 2010.
Monuments of the Incas is the most comprehensive photographic and narrative survey of the major sites of the Inca empire, including the famed city of Machu Picchu, the Inca town and sun temple of Ollantaytambo, the mighty temple-fortress of Sacsahuaman, and the steeply terraced ruins of Pisac. This classic book, first published in 1982 and long out of print, has now been thoroughly rewritten to incorporate results from the latest archaeological excavations, discoveries about Inca masonry techniques, and updated interpretations of form and function. Completely redesigned throughout, it includes new chapters about Choquequirao, Chinchero,Vitcos, and the ruins along the famous Inca Trail.
     
Cradle of gold : the story of Hiram Bingham, a real-life Indiana Jones, and the search for Machu Picchu
Christopher Heaney.
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, c2010.
In this grand, sweeping narrative, Heaney takes the reader into the heart of Peru's past to relive the dramatic story of the final years of the Incan empire, the exhilarating recovery of its final cities, and the thought-provoking fight over its future.
     
The devil and Mr. Casement : one man's battle for human rights in South America's heart of darkness
Jordan Goodman.
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.
From the Amazonian rain forests to the streets of London and Washington, D.C., Goodman recounts a tragedy whose exposure in 1912 drew back the curtain on exploitation and the wholesale abuse of human rights.
     

In this uninviting atmosphere, the Incas (1200-1535 AD) built the largest empire on the continent. 

Cuzco was their capital, and from that administrative center, imaginatively engineered roads ran over thousands of miles of inhospitable terrain.  Unbelievable walls, with cyclopean blocks weighing hundreds of tons, were fitted together so precisely that a knife blade cannot be inserted in the joins. 

Gold and silver were so plentiful that when the Incan ruler Atahualpa put together a ransom to (unsuccessfully) buy his life from his Spanish captors, he provided not pounds of gold and silver, but TONS.

The empire is gone, a victim of the conquistadors' greed and courage and treachery.  The remains can be seen everywhere; even the mountainsides, on closer examination, often reveal careful stone terracing.  Chopping back lush rainforest growth reveals buildings of uncertain purpose but unmistakable art. 

The combination of unbelievable scenery and unbelievable construction continues to draw thousands of visitors.  Last year, Peru was the most popular adventure travel destination in the world.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff