Book Review – Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu PicchuMark Adams is an editor and writer for adventure magazines who had never done anything at all adventurous. That is, until he became obsessed with Hiram Bingham III, the Yale lecturer and explorer who discovered Machu Picchu. Adams decides to follow in the steps of Bingham, and so begins a modern trek over ancient lands.

While Bingham may have indirectly been the inspiration for Indiana Jones, Adams is led on his adventure by a guide more closely related to Crocodile Dundee. John Leivers is an Aussie who has traveled to the remotest places in the world, usually under an 80-pound backpack. With four Peruvian natives manning the mules, carrying supplies, and cooking meals as they camp in the wilds, Adams and Leivers hike to Incan ruins ignored by modern tourists but discovered by Bingham a hundred years ago.

As the story unfolds, Adams reveals that “discovered” might be somewhat of a misnomer. Still, the triad of expeditions by Bingham are brought to life through Adams’s recreation of the events and retelling of Bingham’s rather comprehensive and detailed (i.e., boring) reports. The style of the book is to interweave the author’s own personal background and trials (along with that of John and the Peruvian guides) with Bingham’s history. Also interwoven is the history of the Incas from Atahulapa (murdered by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro after extracting a ransom of gold and silver) to Manco Inca’s guerrilla warfare (and escape into the mountains) to the discovery of the ruins of Vitcos, Espritu Pampa, and Machu Picchu.

The book provides a sense of the territory being traversed and the culture both of the Incas and modern Peruvians. Adams’s writing is fluid and light, laced with rye humor, and constructed in very short chapters that make the book a delightful read. It does get sluggish in a few places, most notably immediately after Machu Picchu and Adams’s return to New York, but picks up again as he makes a return trip to hike the Inca Trail. Insights into local customs, ancient rites, and modern inconveniences are knitted deftly throughout the book.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu” was recommended to me as a preview for my upcoming visit to the ancient city. I found that it aroused my curiosity and excitement for the trip. If you’re planning such a trip, or simply are interested in a good adventure tail about the area, then this is the book for you.

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.

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