Along the Inca Road: A Woman's Journey Into an Ancient Empire

Karin Muller, Author
Karin Muller, Author Adventure Press $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7922-7685-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7922-7727-9
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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 way--to 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 encountered--""the trouble was my own upbringing,"" she admits, ""the only real religion in my family was science""--she 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.)
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