Mark Adams was happy with his life as a family man and
adventure magazine editor... until he wasn't. Tired of
reading about other people's adventures, he sets out on one
of his own. He quits his job and heads to Peru to retrace
the steps of Hiram Bingham, the man who introduced Machu
Picchu and the wonders of ancient Inca to the world. With
the help of many of people, including John Leivers (explorer
and guide) and the Peruvian cooks and muleteers who travel
with them, Mark explores Machu Picchu and the lesser known
Incan ruins primarily by foot. In the process, he comes to a
new appreciation of himself, Bingham, Peru, the Inca, and
what it means to be a traveler (rather than a tourist).
I have a personal fondness for the ancient cultures of Latin
America, and the mysteries they left behind. I have had the
pleasure of traveling through parts of Mexico, but have
never been to Peru. So, I'm a little jealous of Mark Adams
but appreciate the opportunity to live vicariously through
him. TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU provides a historical
account of three separate but related events— Peru following
the Spanish invasion, the life and adventures of Hiram
Bingham, and Adams' exploration of Peru. Adams shifts
smoothly between time periods, with each section providing
new insights that help understand the events that follow.
His deep appreciation of the Inca and Bingham's discovery
shines through but is balanced by recognition of a number of
political, ethical, and financial realities.
At times, I found the narrative to be a little too
chronological which tempered some of the adventurous spirit
of the story. That said, Adams' retelling of his research
and experiences made me want to book the next flight to Peru
to walk the Inca Trail and marvel at these man-made and
mysterious wonders. My advance readers copy did not include
the maps and photos which I believe are in the book. I
suspect they will add a great deal to the reading
experience. The maps and photos is found on-line helped me
to better visualize the locations he was describing. If you
long to see Machu Picchu but can't afford to go or don't
want to give up the comforts of home, I highly recommend
sharing the adventure in TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU.
What happens when an adventure travel expert-who's never
actually done anything adventurous-tries to re-create the
original expedition to Machu Picchu?
July 24, 1911, was a day for the history books. For on that
rainy morning, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III
climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an
ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu
Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the
hero explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless
artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world's
greatest archaeological sites.
Mark Adams has spent his career editing adventure and travel
magazines, so his plan to investigate the allegations
against Bingham by retracing the explorer's perilous path to
Machu Picchu isn't completely far- fetched, even if it does
require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. With a
crusty, antisocial Australian survivalist and several
Quechua-speaking, coca-chewing mule tenders as his guides,
Adams takes readers through some of the most gorgeous and
historic landscapes in Peru, from the ancient Inca capital
of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba.
Along the way he finds a still-undiscovered country
populated with brilliant and eccentric characters, as well
as an answer to the question that has nagged scientists
since Hiram Bingham's time: Just what was Machu Picchu?
For years Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list; indeed, long before I heard of such a thing. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'm even capable of attempting such a trip since my body doesn't like doing anything the least strenuous. Thus my only way of still experiencing this marvelous site will be by reading this book. But then, I'm used to being an armchair traveler. My motto: If you can't do, read about it. I'm sure I could do a lot worse. (Sigrun Schulz 3:55am September 4, 2011)