Fitting in: Gringolandia in Ecuador

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We came to Cuenca mainly to study Spanish for a few weeks. After four and half months of non-stop touring and activity, during which we learned scattered bits of Spanish, we thought we should try to consolidate our learning with …

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The quick & the dead: vistas red & white-2

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To begin with the dead, the mummies and the mound-covered burial chambers we visited along the edge of the salt flats attest to residents from thousands of years ago. It is likely that then, as now, they harvested salt to …

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The quick & the dead: vistas red & white-1

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Think of the Uyuni salt flats (El salar de Uyuni) as a completely frozen lake, eye-piercingly white in the fierce sun and chill air here at around 3600 meters (12,000 feet) altitude. At nearly 11,000 square kilometers in size (4000 …

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The Chiquitanos and the Company Men

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Religious orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans arrived soon after Spanish soldiers spread across western South America in the early 1500s. They came to convert the indigenous from their heathen religion to Christianity and serve the interests of the King …

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Staying Alive on Death Road

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On the bus’s speakers boomed Highway to Hell. So we knew we were at the top of 65 kilometer long Death Road – carved into the sides of the steeply sloped Yungas mountains and dropping 3500 meters, or over 11000 …

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Tarnished Silver: Potosi’s Bloody Mines and Mint

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Potosi is less enticing for what’s left of its colonial town (where only Spaniards were allowed to live) than for its historical importance. Out of Cerro Rico, the double-humped mountain that rises behind Potosi and is featured on the Bolivian …

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Honing a world: the Inca rise and fall

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(NOTE: This articles is longer than our usual, but the impressive Inca history and culture merit the length…and more.) In 1532, the Spaniards arrived in Peru with hundreds of soldiers. They soon destroyed a sophisticated Incan empire stretching from Colombia …

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Lighting the dark: pilgrims to Isla del Sol

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At the northern end of Isla del Sol, an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, are the remains of one of the most sacred sites for the Quechua people, popularly known as the Incas. Before the empire was crushed …

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Seeing red in the Valley of the Spirits

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We were reminded of Sedona, and the multi-colored sandstone formations of southwestern US parks. But, like most other delightful natural sites in the world, the Valley of the Spirits offers its own special attraction. Located a few hours outside of …

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Trekking Peru

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Over nine days, in the south of Peru, we did a lot of  trekking – Rainbow Mountain (1100 meter climb), the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (about 65 kilometers, and a top height of 4630 meters in Salkantay Pass), and …

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