Title: Turn Right at Machu Picchu
Author: Mark Adams
Release Date: June 30, 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Mark Adams was a travel writer and editor, but he wasn’t the type of person to actually embark on adventure travel. However, he had always dreamed of hiking the Inca trail, and decides to take the journey of a lifetime. Camping, hiking, and trekking through the most difficult of terrain, Adams seeks to rediscover Machu Picchu, and understand what Hiram Bingham went through in his quest to “discover” the lost city.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a mix between a travelogue and a history. There are three separate threads that Adams combines to make up the bulk of the story. The Incas’ first encounter with Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and the chaos and death that ensued because of it comprises the first story. After it became clear that Pizarro’s motives weren’t exactly friendly, the Incas retreated to a hidden city in the clouds, one which inspired the imagination of Hiram Bingham III some four hundred years later. Bingham pored over maps and led three different expeditions into Peru to find the lost city. He “found” Machu Picchu (though it’s hard to truly say he discovered it, considering there were actually people living there at the time he came upon it) as well as many other important Inca sites.
The third narrative in Turn Right at Machu Picchu is Adams’ own travelogue as he journeys to see Machu Picchu the way Hiram Bingham did. He connects with Australian guide John Leivers, who really is the stuff of legend. He is witty, but also wise about the jungle and the current state of ruins in Peru. He serves as an important source of knowledge over the course of the book.
Through these three different narratives, the reader gets a sense of the overarching history of the Incas’ downfall, and how their culture has shaped the modern Peru that Adams sees. He talks with locals and tries to understand the modern history of Machu Picchu – the political and geographical issues, as well as what the rise of tourism is doing to the site. He presents all this information in a fascinating and easily digestible form, and he really manages to give the reader a broad view of the situation.
Adams is a talented writer, and he keeps the reader interested from beginning to end. Incorporating three different narratives into his overall story means that he can switch time periods as necessary in order to tell the most engaging story possible. At the same time, though, he is careful not to confuse the reader or frustrate them with too much time jumping. The historical strands are wrapped into Adams’ modern day journey incredibly well.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a fascinating look at Incan history and culture, and the way they intertwine with those of Peru. This is a must-read for anyone interested in Incan history, armchair travelers, and those passionate about archaeology.