Stamina & Corpses on New Year’s Eve in Lima

  The Chinese invented gunpowder The Greeks invented steam power. The Incas, bless ‘em, invented Viagra. Centuries before modern man began to stand up and salute the little blue pill, the Incas were popping “maca,” an Andean radish which is said to have the same effect. There’s a lesson here for conservationists.  Not too long ago, maca was an endangered species, nearly passing out of existence. Then somebody remembered what the Incas used it for and, voila, the plant is being cultivated all over the place and is now one of Peru’s more stellar exports, meaning that here you don’t need an awkward encounter with a pharmacist for the stiffening pill; ... [Read More]

Black Jesus, Grilled Guinea Pig, and the Damned Spanish.

  Spain is a global version of The Biggest Loser. It’s hard to believe that Spain, today a country smaller than the state of Texas, once ruled an empire covering all of Central America, much of the US and South America, parts of the Caribbean, bits of Europe and even some outposts in Asia. That’s a lot of empire to lose. Remnants of the former empire are everywhere evident in Latin America, however, where Spanish remains the predominant language, where the culture and food retain heavy Spanish influence and where Roman Catholicism, the religion imposed on native civilizations at the often bloody point of a sword, remains the overwhelmingly dominant religion. Even ... [Read More]

Machu Picchu. How’d they do that?

  Most of us have a list of places we dream about visiting one day if luck and chance break our way. For as far back as I can remember, the famed “Lost City of the Incas” has been near the top of mine, probably because my father has been telling me excitedly about it since before I really understood what he was saying. Machu Picchu is a stunning testament to what man is capable of achieving. Discovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu was believed to have been built by the Incas between 1450-1540 to serve as the private estate and sacred religious complex for ... [Read More]

Confronting natives in the Amazon jungle

These were clearly savages; they'd never even heard of Georgia Tech! Iquitos Peru is, believe it or not, an Atlantic port 2,000 miles up the Amazon River. During a brief stop we wanted to see a little of the vast rainforest that surrounded the remote town so we hired a local guide to take us for a tour in a small boat. He said he could take us up a tributary of the Amazon and show us where savage Indians lived. So, after churning upriver along a jungle-lined stream for an hour we were put ashore on a mud flat where the guide told us to wait ... [Read More]