Harry R. Matthews' Retirement Home Page

South America, 2006

by Harry R. Matthews and Iris M. Matthews

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In Spring 2006 we joined a 22-day tour called "Amazon, Andes and Incas". The highlights for us were Machu Picchu (the "Lost City of the Incas"), the Galapagos Islands and Iguazu Falls but we found the Amazon and the cities interesting, too. The tour was run by The Captain's Choice.

Machu Picchu is on the side of an outstandingly beautiful valley in the Andes. The settlement was abandoned by the Incas during the Spanish invasion and was never discovered by the Spanish conquerors. It was found by an American archaeologist in the early 20th century in a remarkable state of preservation. It is now a national park and open to visitors.

The Galapagos Islands span the equator, 1000 km west of the coast of South America. Their isolation from continents and, to a large extent from each other, has made them a miniature cradle of evolution and they played a major part in Charles Darwin's book, "The Origin of Species". Although the islands now have a siginificant permanent human population, the indigenous life developed in the absence of large predators such as humans. Consequently, much of the wildlife is quite approachable. Unfortunately, the early sailors took advantage of this and nearly destroyed the population of giant tortoises. One of our sad experiences was to see (and photograph) "Lonesome George" who is the last of his race. Attempts to mate Lonesome George with other types of giant tortoise have so far been unsuccessfull and his race appears destined for extinction when he dies. Fortunately, enough giant tortoises survived on some other islands and they are now being bred sucessfully.

Iguazu (or Iguassu) Falls separate Argentina and Brazil near their borders with Paraguay. Compared with Niagara Falls, they are much more extensive and still surrounded by forest. Access is good, though, and we're pleased with our photographs.

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