Machu Picchu is on my science traveling list for this year, so I’m doing some preparation and planning for the trip. That includes some background reading like the book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams. I’m only about 20% into it so can’t comment about the quality of the book yet, but already it’s given me some ideas for the future…and brought back some cool memories of a past trip.
The author is retracing the footsteps of Hiram Bingham III, the Yale professor who is credited with discovering Machu Picchu in 1911. As with many great discoveries, there is some intrigue about whether he was the first or not and how much it was an accident of faith to find it, but that’s a story for another time. What Bingham was actually looking for was the “Lost City of the Incas.” Before stumbling on Machu Picchu he actually first found a place called Choquequirao.
Choquequirao is considered a sister site to Machu Picchu; to this day it remains largely uncovered and undefiled by the tourist hordes. What struck me about Choquequirao was the eerily familiar approach. Adams has a photo that looks like a lot like this:
My photo above is the approach to the Cueva de las Manos (the Cave of the Hands) in southern Patagonia, Argentina. Those are full size trees in the valley. The caption in the Adams photo says that his valley was mine on steroids – though only six miles total it took “two grueling days” of hiking down, then up. My valley was done in a long half-day, but to me it seemed no less grueling.
Reading the book gives me a taste of what to expect on the trip, as well as some fantastic background history on Inca culture and Andean geography. But it also gave me something completely unexpected – a connection to Abraham Lincoln. It seems that joining Bingham on his expedition to Choquequirao was a “well-connected young man” by the name of Clarence Hay. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Clarence Hay is the son of John Hay, the former Secretary of State to Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt – and former personal secretary to yet another president, Abraham Lincoln.
As I continue reading the book, and continue to prepare for Machu Picchu, I also find myself wanting to write more about my previous trip to Patagonia. I’ll be doing that in the near future. Until then you can read my earlier reminiscences of Patagonia here.
David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.