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Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Amazing Journey at Amazing World Wonder

Mark Adams' "Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time" is a book that's a bit hard to classify. All at once, it's a serious (and seriously funny) travelogue; a smart and tightly written history; and an investigative report into the grea...
Mark Adams' "Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time" is a book that's a bit hard to classify. All at once, it's a serious (and seriously funny) travelogue; a smart and tightly written history; and an investigative report into the greatest archaeological discovery of the last century.

Author Adams spent time writing and editing for the now defunct National Geographic Adventurer magazine and despite working with and alongside some of the world's hardest core adventure travelers, he admits to not being much of one himself. He'd visited Machu Picchu with his son, but he'd done it the tourist way. He wanted to REdiscover Machu Picchu - the way its' original discoverer, Hiram Bingham, had 100 years ago this July. He wanted to hike, climb, slog, tent and explore his way through the Vilcabamba region of Peru and finish at the site that was recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Adams doesn't camp and hadn't been in a tent for years leading up to his Peruvian excursion. His preparation for the trip was extensive, including dressing the part of adventurer. "Have you ever seen Mr. Travel Guy? He's the fellow who strides through international airports dressed like he's flying off to hunt wildebeests - shirt with dozens of pockets, drip-dry pants that zip off into shorts, floppy hat with a cord pulled tight under the chin in case a twister blows through the baggage claim area. All of this describes exactly what I was wearing. I could have been trick-or-treating as Hemingway."

Make no mistake. Adams trip was an uncompromising adventure. There were no soft train rides, or helicopter drops into the jungle. Adams hiked, slept in tents, and climbed miles of off-the-beaten-path terrain. His only chance at being successful in this endeavor was to surround himself with quality guides and support. He emphasized when he hired his guide, experienced explorer and discoverer in his own right John Leivers, that he wanted his trip to be about walking in Bingham's footsteps.

While Leivers was his primary guide, Adams was surrounded by a colorful and interesting crowd, some of which speak only the ancient language of the Inca - quechua. One guide genuinely feared a man-eating devil goat that guarded the entrance to a farm used as a campsite. Adams points out that rumors and ghosts are abound in Peru and particularly in the Andes where "the mischievous twins of Superstition and Legend tend to thrive." Adams also struggled to communicate with Leivers because they come from such different worlds and experiences. Adams finally strikes a note of commonality when a fairly severe bout of bowel issues made his adventurer guide reminisce about his own time with the same problem.

He takes seemingly meaningless interactions and with only a few words turns them into something substantive, funny and culturally eye-opening. "One of the things about Peru that I'd found it hardest to adjust to - even more so than the popularity of Nescafe in a country that grew some of the finest coffee beans in the world -- was la hora perunana, Peruvian Time. This is the code, indecipherable to North Americans, by which Peruvians determine the latest possible moment that it is acceptable to arrive for an appointment. The statement "I'll be right back" can mean just that, or it can mean that the speaker is about to depart via steamship for Cairo. The habit drove Bingham banan

posted by JGolomb on May 19, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Fascinating and Adventurous

An interesting travelogue of Mr. Adams' treks in Peru interspersed with data about Hiram Bingham, the purported discoverer of Machu Picchu and a history of the Inca Empire's downfall as Pizarro and his ilk pillage the Empire and murder its rulers. Mr. Adams descriptions...
An interesting travelogue of Mr. Adams' treks in Peru interspersed with data about Hiram Bingham, the purported discoverer of Machu Picchu and a history of the Inca Empire's downfall as Pizarro and his ilk pillage the Empire and murder its rulers. Mr. Adams descriptions of the ruins in several locations accompanied with his historical perspectives gives us a glimpse into what the Empire looked like in its heyday. Adams writes a compelling account and presents a great way to learn about this period in Peru's history. E readers should refer to the glossary and historical chronology at the back of the book for enhanced understanding of the text. I wish I had realized it was there before I finished the book.

posted by 16969067 on December 28, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

    ****

    Fun.book to read. Liked the humor and the description of both Bingham's trips and the author's trips. Great storytelling.

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  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Great story

    Definitely kept my interest

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Because history IS an adventure...

    After many years as an editor at National Geographic Adventure magazine, Mark Adams decided that he had had enough of sending other writers off to the far reaches of the globe in search of riveting stories from the world's most inaccessible places. As the hundredth anniversary of Hiram Bingham's discovery of Machu Picchu loomed, Adams, married to a Peruvian woman and long fascinated with Bingham (thought by many to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones), decided that this was the assignment to get himself out of his New York office.

    And so, with limited outdoors experience (Adams hadn't been in a tent in he couldn't remember how long), the author set off to follow in the footsteps of the famous explorer through the jungles of South America. Through a fine balance of humor, thorough research, a well structured narrative, and lively prose, the reader is ushered along on a journey through three eras of history-the age of the Inca, the age of Hiram Bingham, and the age of Mark Adams. Many authors in a memoir of this sort inject far too much of themselves into the narrative. Adams uses his experience to provide comic relief but leaves the focus on Bingham and the Incan history which he strove to unearth in the jungles of Peru. Hiram Bingham's own pursuit to answer questions pertaining to the Inca which remained unexplored or unanswered in his own day, in part for his own scholarly knowledge, and in part his desire to build his own legacy, was well laid out by Mark Adams. Throughout this exploration of Bingham's quest the reader is carried along through three time phases simultaneously.

    Not being one for jungles (Snakes? I think not!), I was happy to follow along from the comfort and relative safety of my own corner of the globe-yes, we have bears here in the Last Frontier, but at least I can see the threat coming! Mark Adams' prose is so vivid, the reader will feel transported. I highly recommend this one for its history, adventure, and verve.

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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    Now I want to go.

    Mark Adams tells a great story tracing Hiram Bingham III's path through the Peruvian Andes. I liked it because it was told in what seemed to be an honest account of a non-adventurer (Mark) looking objectively at what Hiram Bingham discovered with a few reflections upon how the modern world is spoiling yet more historical treasures. I wish I could hire his guide and go on this journey myself. John Lievers sounds like the kind of person who knows himself well and what to expect from others too.

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