By Lee Daley
Name the top wonders of South America and most would agree with travel adventurer Richard Bangs’ choices. In his superb DVD, “South America: Quest for Wonder,” Bangs and his film crew take viewers on a journey across South America in a quest for wonder to Iguaçu Falls, Easter Island, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.
“If there is geography of wonder, it is South America.” So begins Bangs with his first stop at one of the greatest wonders on the planet, Iguaçu Falls. Watching the video, one feels powerfully present as the camera lingers upon the grandeur (look for the rainbow!) of more than 250 cascading falls spread in a horseshoe curve above the Iguaçu River. Bangs explores the history and culture of the surrounding subtropical forest, takes us to the top of the falls, meets with a native elder and interviews a botanist who tells us that more than 2,000 species of plants survive here because of the falls.
Bangs’ South American quest next explores the mystery of remote Easter Island. Why, he asks, did the original inhabitants,- sea-faring Polynesians who traveled here in outrigger canoes,- build the gigantic sculptures that dominate the island today? We meet their descendents, the Rapanui people, who live on the island. Bangs talks with Mata’ u Rapu, and his archaeologist father, Sangria, both descendents of the original settlers. Why were the sculptures built? “The mystery is alive,” says Rapu, “and we are the guardians of this land. These statues represent ancestral power.” Bangs and his crew kayak the surrounding sea, hike the hills, attend a riveting ceremonial dance and marvel at the more than 30,000 archaeological sites scattered about this living museum. Great efforts are being made to sustain the delicate eco-system of this remote island where the present-day descendents are indeed guardians of their own heritage.
With Bangs, we quest forward to Cusco, gateway to a lost empire and on to the Sacred City of the Inca. We peruse the Pisac Market where all manner of colorful crafts still thrive while gaining insight into Peruvian history and culture with scenes of ceremonious festivals still thriving here in the Andes. Traveling via Inca Rail, Bangs and his crew take us to the lost city, the sacred citadel that was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, the Incan city he called Machu Picchu. Coming upon the overgrown ruins, Bingham said, “the site held me spellbound.” Bangs calls Machu Picchu a ‘living moving piece of art.” His words and images bring Machu Picchu’s magic to life as he wanders past the stones that hold in their veins the secrets of a once- thriving culture of artisans and kings.
From Peru, our quest takes us 1,000 miles west to the fragile island chain known as the Galapagos, sometimes called the “birthplace of the planet.” These nine volcanic islands dial us back to an earlier time as Bangs walks across warm lava fields, visits with gigantic mating tortoises and kayaks from one island to another with Nathalie De Roy, a local guide. De Roy fascinates with tales of the origins of names like Sally Lightfoot for the island’s nimble crabs, imitations of bird calls, and explanations of the physiology of water-diving marine iguana. We see all manner of wild life from blue-footed boobies, lava lizards and penguins to red-breasted frigate birds. Even underwater, the wildlife, more abundant than on land, amazes us with its volume and variety.
You can travel to these South American wonders with Mountain Travel Sobek, the company started by world adventurer, Richard Bangs. See the itineraries here:http://www.mtsobek.com/trips/
If a trip to South America is not in your immediate plans, the DVD titled, “South America: Quest for Wonder,” makes a great trip-planner and brings with it much inspiration and excitement. The DVD is sold separately or with a companion book “Adventures without End” at: www.richardbangs.com/quests/ or by calling 1-888-687-6527.
Drawing on decades of experience, Richard Bangs can design private trips for individuals or groups. Contact him to discuss your wishes at Richard@richardbangs.com. Visit his website at www.richardbangs.com
Read about Richard Bangs’ quest to find the unicorn rhino in Assam, India here at DeepCultureTravel.com
Look on the iTunes App Store for Lee’s “Sausalito to Pt Reyes Exploration Guide,” sutromedia.com/apps/Sausalito_Pt_Reyes_More
All Photos Copyright Lee Daley 2012. Read more of Lee’s Examiner travel articles here.