Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Peru Is In The News Today!

I’m very up-beat over the story on page three of the LA Times today headlined “Machu Piccchu Artifacts Will Be Returned.” This made me happy for two reasons—first that the Inca artifacts will b returned to their place of origin and second—that this news was considered significant enough to be placed so prominently in a major metropolitan newspaper.

Even though I like being able to see artifacts from all over the world in American museums, I recognize that a by-product of cultural imperialism is plundering and looting of palaces, temples and burial grounds by the conquering cultures has been a fact of human history. This process was later practiced in a more civilized manner in the name of anthropology and archeology.

Sometimes there might have been the appearance of obtaining “permission” from some local honcho to crate up and export artifacts, but generally the German, French British, and American explorers and archaeologists took whatever they could find with relative impunity.

I am a firm supporter of the notion that ethnographic and archaeological discoveries should remain very close to where they were discovered and unearthed. I applaud The Getty Museum for returning artifacts to Italy and Yale University’s return of these Incan antiquities.

Yes, I’m distressed that Yale is keeping some for “further study.” I don’t really see any sort of explanation of as to why they can’t continue their studies of these findings in Peru. After all, Hiram Bingham sent these discoveries to Yale almost a century ago. But, that said, any sort of progress is progress indeed!

Additionally in the news, a Peruvian adventurer and self-styled swashbuckler named Gene Savoy has passed away. I never heard of Mr Savoy before, or had opportunity to visit his discovery, the lost city of Vilcabama. I was interested to see he started some sort of new-age theology called Cosolargy.

When Cory and I were in Peru, last year for our 20th anniversary, we were lucky enough to get to visit Machu Picchu. We traveled there from Cusco, the traditional capital city of the Inca Empire, on the ultra-swank Hiram Bingham train—another one of Cory’s fabulous A&K perks.

Cusco has an 11,000 foot elevation.
And that is really, really high.

Although adjusting to high altitudes is a process that generally unfolds relatively quickly, the first day or two can be a woozy thing—your head pounds, your lungs gasp, your knees wobble.

The local remedy is something called coca tea, and yes, it is brewed using the leaves of the coca bush making it a cousin to an illegal substance. It’s not bad tasting at all and did help as a tummy settling agent. It was served gratis in hotel lobby and everyone encourages you to drink a lot of it. We did. And I can honestly say—it is a great remedial tea.

The irony is that Machu Picchu is actually located at a lower elevation of 8,000 feet but there is so much climbing to do there that the lower 3,000 feet somehow didn’t afford much comfort at all. The act of breathing felt exactly the same as it did in Cusco.

So big deal if we had to take frequent rests and catch our breath every thirty yards or so? So was everyone else over the age of 35 climbing on the uneven original stone steps. We all laughed and smiled at each other regardless of the languages we were speaking.

As Cory and I sat together on a rock waiting to recover, the panoramic vista was plenty engaging and really filled our hearts with awe and wonder. I felt so fortunate to able to visit this magical place—and on our anniversary yet!

Our two days of exploring the ruins were absolutely inspirational. No one is really quite sure what Machu Picchu was intended to be or why or when it was abandoned by the Incas. It’s all guess work.

But the beauty of these elegantly crafted dwellings that are still stunning in a state of ruin is something that if one wasn’t already quite breathless from the elevation would succeed in taking your breath away.

The Incas, and their Peruvian descendants, have an incredible relationship with the llama and its kin, the vicuna and alpaca. There are over two dozen llamas that have absolute free reign at Machu Picchu and do a really swell job of keeping the beautiful lawns immaculately groomed

What a place! I’d go back at the drop of a hat.
A Tilly hat!

Click here for more photos from our Machu Picchu experience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great post. I've always been interested in ancient civilizations and archaeology. Thanks for telling and showing us so much about this adventure. Nice to hear at least some of the artifacts are going home. This is a post I'll probably read again and again. So many links, so little time.