I had it all planned. My wife and I were going to travel to Lima, Peru and then onto Junin in the central highlands, catch up with our daughter, a Peace Corps volunteer, and we would travel to see Machu Picchu — the 15th-century Incan citadel located in in Southern Peru in the Andes Mountains on a 2,430-meter (7,970 ft) mountain ridge — and one of the great seven wonders of the modern world.
When I was in elementary school, I had learned about the Incan Empire and had always wanted to visit and see Machu Picchu — believed by most archeologists to be an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti — for myself.
Of course, the pandemic happened, our daughter was rushed out of Peru in the wee hours of the morning by the Peace Corps, travel got shut down, and my plans to see Machu Picchu went up in smoke, sort of like the Inca empire. (For the record, the empire came to an end when Spain took control of Vilcabamba in 1572, capturing and executing the last Inca ruler Tupak Amaru.)
With the whiff, I’m now 0 for seven in seeing the seven wonders:
- Machu Picchu, Peru.
- Chichén Itzá, Mexico.
- Roman Colosseum, Italy.
- Christ the Redeemer, Brazil.
- The Great Wall of China.
- The Taj Mahal, India.
- The City of Petra, Jordan.
A coliseum like none other
My wife and son at least got to see the Colosseum up close in Italy nine years ago as part of a school trip that he had saved up for by selling pizzas, brooms, and mowing yards. (The standard spelling for an outdoor stadium is “coliseum,” but the one in Rome is called the “Colosseum.”) No, I would not want to be a gladiator. From the pictures they took alone, I could tell that few gladiators outside Russell Crowe came back alive.
Of the rest, Petra has long been on my list, because of the closing scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Christ the Redeemer, because well it’s in Brazil, and of course, the Great Wall of China.
Have suitcase, will travel
I love to travel so maybe one day I’ll get to travel to one or all. The seven wonders are made up of the new, the natural and the ancient. Until I get there though, I’ve been thinking of new places that I would add to my own list of the Seven Wonders – Places that I’ve visited that have awed and inspired me. Oh, there are definitely more interesting or dynamic places, but these have all meaning for me. And yes, they tend to be in the U.S., not because beauty is confined to the Eastern United Staes. Heck no, I just need to get out more.
In any event, here’s my New Seven Wonders of the World:
- The Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls, the Canadian side of course. The rush of water, the power, the majesty, there’s nothing else like it.
- The Shenandoah Mountains and the Appalachian Trail, including McAfee’s Knob in Southwest Virginia. I’m partial to the Shenandoah Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park, which includes five hundred miles of trails, consisting of 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, waterfalls, protected wilderness, and panoramic views overlooking the Shenandoah valley. I’m equally partial to the 2,200 mile long Appalachian Trail, which runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine and passes through 14 states. McAfee’s Knob is a key overlook on the trail in Southwest Virginia and is known as the most photographed point the Trail. Yes, as national park advocate John Muir wisely said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”
- The Hana Highway. The Road to Hana, a 64-mile-long stretch of Hawaii Routes 36 and 360, which connect Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. The road is a curvy one, but what’s amazing about is the beautiful waterfalls and scenic views. When I think of an island getaway, I think of the Road to Hana.
- The Atlantic Ocean. Yes, California has better waves, Florida has more fun, but there’s nothing like a summer vacation along the East Coast. You gotta love a Jersey Shore sunrise (and I don’t mean the silly MTV show.)
- La Familia Sagrada. I didn’t know much about the La Familia Sagrada, before traveling to Barcelona, but I fell in love instantly with the large Catholic church that was designed by the great architect Antoni Gaudi and has been under construction since 1882. I spent an hour looking around the architectural and engineering masterpiece and felt like I could have spent my entire two week vacation in the church learning something new every day. A true masterpiece.
- Empire State building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square. I’m a country boy at heart and always will be, but New York is in a category all its own.
- Independence Hall. Where the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted by America’s Founding Fathers. In short, where liberty and freedom got their start.
What am I missing? Where do I need to go to next?