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Along the Inca Road: A Woman's Journey into an Ancient Empire (Adventure Press)

Muller, Karin

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ISBN 10: 079227685X / ISBN 13: 9780792276852
Published by National Geographic, U.S.A., 2000
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
From Maxwell's House of Books (La Mesa, CA, U.S.A.)

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A clean, crisp, hardcover copy in very good condition, inscribed by the author; light shelf wear. Near fine DJ in mylar cover; faint edge wear. Bookseller Inventory # 022880

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Along the Inca Road: A Woman's Journey into ...

Publisher: National Geographic, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Inscribed By the Author

About this title

Synopsis:

One of the engineering wonders of the world, the Inca Road was built more than five hundred years ago to link the far-flung outposts of a fabled empire -- an empire that ruled in golden splendor until the conquistadors arrived to plunder El Dorado and put a swift, cruel end to its extraordinary culture. But its legend survives in the masterful masonry of its paving blocks and the ruined glory of ghost cities such as Cuzco. In this vivid, free-wheeling expedition, Karin Muller travels the ancient route to explore its dramatic history and discover new adventures along its length and breadth. "Along the Inca Road" shares the stillness of sunrise in the haunted aerie of Machu Picchu, clings to the roof of a rattletrap bus skirting the vertiginous precipices of the Andes, carouses through the streets of an Altiplano city on Carnival, and inches warily forward as Ecuadorian soldiers probe for land mines with bayonets. Muller's ready for just about anything, whether it's challenging the Pacific surf in a traditional Inca reed boat, locking horns with a bull in a cheering Peruvian arena, or joining a crack Bolivian anti-narcotics team on a hunt for clandestine cocaine labs deep in the jungle. She initiates us into the mysteries of the spirits at a shaman's rite involving hamsters, hallucinogens, and copious libations of moonshine, and high in a mountain meadow captures a struggling vicuna, whose prized silky fleece once was reserved for the Inca god-king alone. And these are only a few of the traveler's tales from a 3,125-mile odyssey encompassing four countries and every form of transportation under the sun, from footslogging, mule train, and motorbike to state-of-the-art militaryvehicles. As she spins the wool of her stories into a modern tapestry of faces and memories, Muller intertwines a chronicle of the ancient Inca from their race's mythical birth on an island in lofty Lake Titicaca to their sudden plunge from the height of imperial power at the hands of a ragtag band of Spanish soldiers of fortune. We learn how they lived, worshipped, and warred, and why such a magnificent culture proved so vulnerable to invaders. As spectacular as the mountainscapes that are its breathtaking backdrop, "Along the Inca Road" is a wonderful panorama of past and present -- the kind of sharply observed portrait of a unique part of the world and its colorful people that displays the art of travel literature at its best.

Review:

What's an American woman doing shaking a pink cape at a bull on a hillside in Peru? Ask Karin Muller, a self-described vagabond who is game for anything, especially if it's a traditionally male task in strictly sex role-divided South America. After years of contemplating the thin red line of the Inca Road on her map of the world, Muller takes off with a grant from the National Geographic Society (which also supplied a cameraman) for a six-month jaunt through Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Chile. Along the way, she searches for remnants of the ancient stone-paved road and jumps headfirst into whatever adventure she can find. First stop, a cuy doctor whacks her on the back and head with a whimpering guinea pig, then offers her a diagnosis based on the quality of the animal's intestines. She's tear-gassed in an indigenous antigovernment protest, and dresses in an orange cloak, gold sparkles, and black face paint (a concoction made of tar and animal fat) to pull a 200-pound roast pig during the Festival of Mama Negra. In a surreal moment, she witnesses the mysterious crash of a Brazilian military helicopter in the Andean highlands, and in a horrific one, crawls through a mole-like tunnel deep into a mountainside where men spend years digging for gold, leaving only to eat, wash, and haul their ore 423 steps to a giant crushing machine. She even watches a military crew clear live mines planted by Peruvians during the Ecuador-Peruvian border war.

Throughout her adventures, Muller weaves a lively history of the rise and fall of the Incan empire. While the old road is hard to find, the Incan legacy is everywhere, from curanderismo (shamanism) to roundups of golden-fleeced vicunas by villagers spread in human chains to the farming of coca leaves. Her explication of the coca tradition is particularly interesting: the "quintessential Andean sacrament" and the ultimate marker of indigenous identity, chewing coca leaves is akin to sharing a cup of coffee. Of course, she also joins a Bolivian special forces drug patrol in the Amazon to see the more familiar face of cocaine. While Muller doesn't slow down long enough for introspection or much genuine human connection (and you have to occasionally wonder about her cultural sensitivity), she does have a remarkable knack for putting herself in the middle of events, and an unflagging enthusiasm for taking risks most tourists wouldn't dream of. --Lesley Reed

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