If anyone manages to live real life like Indiana Jones it is David Hatcher Childress. A veteran of many expeditions to some of the most interesting destinations on Earth, Childress has made adventure a career. The author of many lengthy books on lost cities and civilizations, he has learned the hidden byways of world travel up close and personal.
What to See: The Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the NationalMuseum.
History The Greek philosopher Plato, around 400 B.C., mentions how his relative Solon, visiting Egypt around 590 B.C., had been told by Egyptian priests of Atlantis and its war with ancient Athens around 9000 B.C. The Egyptians told Solon that the world had been destroyed several times and that the Greeks had forgotten their own history.
According to Greek mythology, Athens was founded by the goddess Athena and was a great civilization as early as 10,000 B.C., before the Mediterranean was flooded and the Aegean Sea was created. Even modern historians are in disagreement as to when Athens was founded, but by 1400 B.C. it was a powerful city-state. Apparently the Acropolis is built on the foundations of ancient blocks of stone, much like the Roman temple at Baalbek in Lebanon. The current buildings, including the famous Parthenon, were started in 447 B.C. Don't miss wandering through the Plaka, the old city with its narrow streets, restaurants, and gift shops.
Hints A good side trip is to the Island of Thera (Santorini), thought by some Greek archaeologists to be the origin of Plato's Atlantis. Thera can be reached by daily flights or ferry (12 hours from Athens). The volcano of Thera exploded around 1450 B.C. and is now a crescent-shaped island with steep cliffs and spectacular views. Sit at the Atlantis Hotel on the rim of the crater and sip a drink at sunset, watching the deep orange colors fade over the still smoking crater.
What to See: KarnakTemple, LuxorTemple, and the Valley of Kings.
History Luxor is ancient Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt. Here, the greatest temple in all of Egypt existed, Karnak, the massive temple to Amon-Ra. When walking through this gigantic temple the glory and awesome scope of ancient Egyptian civilization will overwhelm you. Here are megalithic walls and columns a 100 feet high built to last for thousands of years.
White-sailed felucca boats sail up and down the Nile outside your hotel, and if you cross the Nile you can journey to the underground tombs of the Valley of Kings and Valley of Queens. No Egyptian mummy has ever been found in a pyramid, instead the Egyptians buried their mummified dead in rock-cut vaults deep underground. Believing that mummified egos could not reincarnate, Atonists like Akhenaton and Nefertiti preferred cremation to mummification and even fought a war over this principle. Early Christians, who also believed in reincarnation, were forbidden to be mummified or embalmed as well.
Hints Don't miss the Sound and Light Show at the KarnakTemple every evening, the smaller but still magnificent LuxorTemple, and be sure to take a walk through the Arab market a block from the Nile. Wander among the carpet shops, tea cafes, and papyrus shops, but be prepared for the relentless attention of shop owners and street vendors. Tourism is down nowadays in Egypt, so it's a buyers market. A good rule of thumb is not to pay more than 40% of the first price quoted to you. And remember, anything you want is available at five other shops around the corner.
A good side trip is to the Temple of Abydos several hours north along the Nile. Here you can visit an excellent temple in which the full list of all the kings of Egypt are listed in chronological order. Behind the temple is the famous Osirion, or Tomb of Osiris. This is a pre-Egyptian megalithic building, half submerged in a swamp, that is said to date from the time of Atlantis when the Mediterranean was a dry valley, the ancient Osirian Civilization. Curiously, the walls of the Osirion are built of huge polygonal blocks of stone identical to those found in Peru.
What to See: The old city with the Dome of the Rock Mosque and the remains of the Temple of Solomon.
History Like Baalbek in Lebanon, Jerusalem was laid out on the massive ruins of an ancient city, a megalithic platform. King Solomon built the first Temple on top of the huge ashlars that are now the Wailing Wall. This temple held the Ark of the Covenant. This object is said to have come from Atlantis and kept in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. Destroyed by the Romans and in the 10th century, the temple ruins became the site of the Muslims beautiful Dome of the Rock Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
Hints Don't miss the walks along the top of the ancient city walls or sitting in a cafe in one of the old quarters. A one-day side trip from Jerusalem should be to Qumran and the Dead Sea. The ancient Essene community of Ein Gedi was along the shores of the Dead Sea and the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found is just up a nearby wadi.
4. TAJ MAHAL
History It is sometimes said of famous sights that they are never as good as you think they will be. The Taj Mahal is one of those places even better than you imagine. Built by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz, the magnificent white marble structure with pools and gardens is a true mystical experience.
Hints Don't miss visiting the Taj during a Full Moon when the desert sky is clear and the building shines in the moonlight. India is famous for its train trips, and Agra can be reached easily by train from New Dehli.
The ancient city of Fatipur Sikri is nearby. This Mogul city was abandoned when the water supply disappeared. Spend a fascinating afternoon walking among its red sandstone minarets and archways. A three-day side trip to Benares (Varanasi), the holiest city in the Hindu religion, and GangesRiver would be well spent. This ancient city goes back to the Rama Empire of around 12,000 B.C. Bathe in the Ganges at dawn while an orange sun rises above the hundreds of temples that adorn the shore.
What to See: SwayambuTemple and Bodinath Stupa.
History Kathmandu is an ancient city built in a valley surrounded by the Himalayas. Buddha was from the Nepalese city of Lumbini, and it is said that Jesus traveled from Lumbini to Swayambu in Kathmandu and on to Lhasa in Tibet in his early years. Swayambu is a great geomanced temple mound with a Buddhist shrine on the summit.
Hints Beware of the aggressive monkeys and don't take any food. Wander through the city streets and markets to the many temples. The smell of incense and temple bells fills the air. Bodanath Stupa in a sacred Buddhist shrine on the outskirts of the city. Don't miss dinner at Kathmandu's original hotel, The Yak & Yeti, and an evening rickshaw ride through the city.
As long as you're in the Himalayas, a week-long side trip could be made to Lhasa, the ancient capital of Tibet. With the imposing PotalaPalace towering over the city, this center of Tibetan Buddhism captures the heart on the Roof of the World. Though the Dalai Lama now lives in exile in Dharmsala, India, Lhasa is still a city of magic and mystery.
6. MESA VERDE
What to See: The ancient hogans and cliff castles.
History Mesa Verde is connected to the extensive road system emanating out from ChacoCanyon in northern New Mexico. The vanished Anasazi who lived at Mesa Verde are believed to be related to the Hohokam Indians of Arizona and ultimately with the Toltecs of Tula in Northern Mexico.
Mesa Verde is the northernmost site with the ball courts, kivas, walled cities, and cliff buildings typical of southwestern American Indian settlements. The people imported exotic birds from Central America and used crystals and boomerangs.
Hints Don't miss climbing the buildings high on the cliffs, and looking for the mysterious pyramid of Mesa Verde. If you continue west an interesting side trip is to CanyonlandsNational Park in southern Utah or south to Canyon de Chelley and the Hopi Mesas. The ancient cities, cliff dwellings and ball courts of the Anasazi and Hohokam can be found from Aztec, New Mexico, to ChacoCanyon, the Zuni Pueblo to Montezuma's Castle near Sedona.
What to See: The Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
History The ruins around the valley of Mexico are very ancient, the Aztecs were late-comers to this fascinating area. The Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was built on an island in the center of a lake which has now been drained and smothered by Mexico City, which is slowly sinking into the still, soft lake bed.
The ruins of Cuiquilco, near the University of Mexico, are thought to be over 9,000 years old, but the most spectacular site is the Toltec sacred precinct of Teotihuacan just to the northeast of the city. Here the huge Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon tower above the valley. The temple to Quetzalcoatl, the ancient saint who walked throughout North and South America, is found between the pyramids.
Hints Don't miss climbing to the top of the pyramids for an awe-inspiring view.
A one-day side trip to Tula, the ancient Toltec capital three hours north of Mexico City, is well worth it. Here the gigantic statues, called Atlanteans, stand 80 feet high, once the columns of a gigantic temple.
8. MACHU PICCHU
What to See: The ancient megalithic city perched on a mountain in the Urubamba Gorge of Peru.
History No one knows what is the original name of this fabulous, secret city perched on a jungle mountain top, but today it is known as Machu Picchu, named after the mountain. While often attributed to the Incas, it is likely that Machu Picchu was built many thousands of years before the Inca dynasty, as were Ollantaytambo, Cuzco, and Tiahuanaco.
This hidden city commanded the road from the lower jungle areas up the UrubambaRiver into the SacredValley. It is one of the most spectacular sights in the world. Hints Don't miss taking the train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu station or hiking to the top of the peak above the city, Huaynu Picchu, through the rock-cut tunnel.
A good side trip is to the ancient city Ollantaytambo, with its megalithic fortress overlooking the town. This is one of the few ancient cities of South America that is still occupied, and wandering through the quiet streets with the stream running along the sides is a trip back into the dim mists of history.
What to See: The Gate of the Sun, pyramid and buildings of Tiahuanaco.
History Tiahuanaco is one of the oldest cities in South America, going back many thousands of years. Guesses range from 3,000 B.C. to 24,000 B.C. A two hour's drive from La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, Tiahuanaco, is the site of the bleak, windswept Altiplano of the Andes. The pyramid and walls of the city first catch your attention and the scattered megalithic blocks about the site. The center of attention is the Gate of the Sun with its mysterious hieroglyphs and the strange goggle-eyed statues.
Hints Don't miss seeing the gigantic cut-stones of Puma Punku a mile away which are said to be the ruins of an ancient canal and temple. A side trip to nearby Lake Titicaca would also be enjoyable. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and sits among the snow-capped peaks on the border of Peru and Bolivia.
The sacred Island of the Sun, where the first Inca, Manco Capac, stepped out of a cave in the 4th century A.D. can be visited in the middle of the lake. UFO activity is often reported around the lake.
10. EASTER ISLAND
What to See: The many gigantic statues, the volcanic quarry and the walls at Vinapu.
History No one knows when Easter Island was first occupied, but the historians of Rapa Nui, as the islanders call their land, say that there was once a land called Hiva to the north of them from whence they came. The island has walls such as at Vinapu, near the airport, that are identical in construction to those found at Cuzco, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu in Peru, testifying to their ancient age and contact with South America.
The volcanic quarry of Rano Raraku is also a natural amphitheater where scores of huge statues, buried to their chests stand looking down to a tortora reed lake. Platforms of statues exist at various places around the island.
Hints Don't miss hiking around to the Arongo Birdman city on the cliffs above the Rano Kao volcanic crater and looking out at the sacred birdman islands below.
Easter Island can only be reached by private yacht or by plane from Santiago, Chile, or Papeete, Tahiti, therefore a convenient side trip would be to fly on to Tahiti and the Society Islands. On Tahiti you can visit the ancient pyramid sites and the famous GauginMuseum and its megalithic Tiki statues. Here the Polynesian culture continues its vibrant existence.
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)