This month’s travel/ adventure book of the month is New York Times Bestseller, Mark Adams’s Turn Right At Machu Picchu. In honor of the hundred year anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, Mark Adams decided to follow in the footsteps of the famous Yale explorer. Although Adams had been to Peru several times, his wife is Peruvian, he had never left the city of Lima. To make matters more interesting, at that time, he was a writer for Adventure magazine and was a former writer for Outside magazine, he was not what you would consider the typical demographic of either monthly. He missed out on being a Cub Scout as a child, a theme echoed throughout his life, as he had never slept outdoors and certainly had never been back country backpacking. Spurred on by the unexpected loss of similar aged colleague and the romantic notion of exploration, Adams embarked on a life changing expedition.
“…(I’d) never hunted or fished, didn’t own a mountain bike and couldn’t start a fire without matches if ordered to do so at gunpoint.” Mark Adams
Adams wrote about adventure and had assigned writers to far flung destinations, but had little to no first hand experience. His inexperience and self deprecating style of storytelling makes it both endearing and entertaining, mix in an antisocial, stereotypical Australian “character” as his guide and you have a great story.
Adams parallels his trek with that of Bingham’s route of discovery. Each chapter alternates between his story and Bingham’s. This makes for a readable mix of the two as Bingham’s story would play out as a bit dry and academic while the contrast of a modern day “inept” explorer makes a far more entertaining tale. This unique style of story telling provides fascinating insight into Bingham that could have easily been lost in a simply historical recount.
“The revised version of Bingham’s tale had the makings of a great story: hero adventurer exposed as villainous fraud,” from Turn Right At Machu Picchu, as even today, controversy swirls around the claim of discovery by Bingham and the handling of artifacts that he shipped to the Yale museum. The famous fictional explorer Indiana Jones was reported to be modeled after Hiram Bingham, and as Adams discovered more about Bingham, in the process, he learned more about himself.
Turn Left At Machu Picchu is an engaging read for a subject you might not think about delving into, balancing the historical aspects of the story with the rich enthusiasm of someone who has not been jaded by years of experience. It was like discovering an old past time for the first time. It filled my dreams with romantic notions of exploration and visions of the historic and remote lands of the Inca.
Enjoy and safe travel,
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