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Along the Inca Road

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In its heyday, the Royal Inca Highway was an extraordinary feat of engineering. Meriting comparisons to the Great Wall of China, legend has it that the route was built not by men, but by the gods. An essential component of the far-flung Inca Empire, the original course of the 3200 mile Inca Road remains a source of speculation. Along the Inca Road is the dramatic account of Karin Muller's seven-month adventure following and documenting her experiences along these ancient routes. Affording a rare and revealing glimpse into the present-day descendants of the Inca. Muller's odyssey begins at the border of Ecuador and continues down the Andes Culminating in Santiago, near the southernmost reach of the Inca Empire. Along the way, Muller has a tense encounter with Brazilian soldiers, tries her hand at bullfighting at a festival in the ancient Inca town of Ollantaytambo, joins in the yearly roundup and shearing of the endangered Peruvian vicuna, accompanies the Ecuadorian military on a de-mining patrol through the beautiful Cordillera of the Condors, and much more. A compelling story of a woman's solo journey through the heart of an elusive land, the literally groundbreaking Along the Inca Road will be released in conjunction with a highly touted documentary on The National Geographic channels airing in 54 countries.
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The multilingual Muller is best known for Hitchhking Vietnam, a book and PBS Special based on seven months of traveling around Vietnam. For her next challenge, Muller decided to follow the ancient Inca Road from Ecuador to Chile, this time with the help of National Geographic, which provided her with funding and a cameraman. The results of the trip are an upcoming documentary and this thorough and enjoyable book, which paints an interesting portrait of the people the author meets. Despite the often rough and very uncomfortable conditions on the trip, Muller never complains. Instead, she focuses on the warm hospitality of the people, the turbulent history of the region, and the beauty of the countryside. Her daring spirit compels her to take part in several adventures, such as participating in ancient festivals, going down into a gold mine, trying her hand at bullfighting, and accompanying the Bolivian army on a cocaine raid. Muller's account is a lot of fun for armchair travelers but would also be worthwhile for anyone interested in learning about the region. Recommended for all travel collections.DKathleen Shanahan, Kensington, MD Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Hoping to embark on a "hero's journey," Muller (Hitchhiking Vietnam) makes the most of a National Geographic grant to explore the ancient Inca Highway that runs through the Andes. Explaining her intention, Muller writes that heroes "are not the strongest nor the bravest, nor even the most deserving. But they all share one trait: They are traveling into the unknown." In this spirit, Muller travels over 3,000 miles through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile for "six unscheduled months to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my wayÄto spend time with farmers plowing their fields and cross the high plains with a llama caravan." Muller's enthusiasm and interest are unflagging whether in the midst of a dangerous political protest in Quito or undergoing a traditional guinea-pig healing session elsewhere in Ecuador. ("A razor blade materialized and the animal was slit from chin to tail, its skin pulled off like a glove.") While Muller admits difficulty in abiding by some cultural practices encounteredÄ"the trouble was my own upbringing," she admits, "the only real religion in my family was science"Äshe proves fearless and open-hearted, loath to pass up any experience. Muller even goes out of her way to join a physically and emotionally grueling patrol to remove land mines in the Cordillera mountain range, never complaining that what was said to be a "demonstration" was actually a field of live mines. "That night I dreamt of wandering through a field of exquisite purple flowers," she writes. "I leaned down to pluck one and vaporized." Muller weaves substantial bits of South American history, geography and current events throughout the text, a fitting tribute to an extraordinary odyssey. 16 photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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