A Culture of Death?
Who were the Maya? Armed with a very elementary knowledge of a once great, enlightened and violent culture and disguised as a Caribbean vacation I was bound and determined to leave the experts to their own disheveled debate and find out for myself somewhere in the steamy, remote jungles of the Yucatan.
The little pre-trip research I did do led me to darker and darker realizations that maybe the Maya weren’t a people to be admired or for subsequent civilizations to aspire to.
So what secrets would I find buried and lost for a thousand years in an environment just waiting for the faintest chink in the Maya’s armor of obsidian to establish nature ruler of the land once and for all? And what was the source of strength for these people to overcome overwhelming odds and to thrive under the most unlikely conditions for so long?
What I found was a mixed bag of cruel truths, brilliance, incomprehensible fantasy and reaffirmation that there are many more questions than answers.
THE TRAVEL COMPANION FROM 11,000 FEET
At 3,310 meters, Cusco ranks within a thousand feet of the highest and most inhospitable cities on the planet. The settlement drapes over the mountains like an impaled victim being pulled to the valley floor. It’s a remote land that time should have forgotten. Yet everyone from the millennia-old Killke culture to modern adventurers the world-over has somehow made their way to this mountain Mecca.
I was no exception.
THE TRAVEL COMPANION TO PERU
Seven days from the deserts of Lima to the terraces of Machu Picchu. I loathe travel guides. And when I suffered minimally after I lost my Lonely Planet Peru guide somewhere between Cusco and Aguas Calientes I decided to record my own memories. Not just a daily log but a super-journal oozing with sights and smells, gut reactions and awful truths. This Peru trip would never fade in memory but would be as fresh as the paper it was written on. The result was an intimate jouney through one of my favorite adventures. Little did I anticipate it would be of any interest to anyone else.
THE TRAVEL COMPANION TO BOSTON
I have to be honest. I wasn’t all that excited about visiting Boston. The first day of my journal was a half-hearted personal pep-talk to try to generate a morsel of enthusiasm. On day two I found myself, likely breaking some taboo of high academia, in the Coop at Harvard buying a Moleskin journal. The clerk proceeded to mistake me for a fellow student when she asked for my “Coop Card.” Fighting involuntary bursts of laughter I attempted to play along with the near-sighted, and possibly sarcastic (now that I’m thinking of it), mistaken identity and simply stated that I left it in the residence. From that moment I knew that Boston was going to be filled with pleasant surprises and unexpected moments of inspiration.