“No gringo discovered Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was never forgotten.”
- Draco: Nice scar. Where did you get it?
- Harry: Thanks. Voldemort gave it to me back in the 80's.
- Draco: Vintage. So adorable.
- Harry: Thanks. *walks away*
- Draco: That is the ugliest effing scar I've ever seen.
“A rather smart, smallish carriage drove through the inn gates of a provincial town.”
I am so fascinated by the Inca. The Inca and their artistic and architectural production was my particular interest while studying art history as an undergrad. Ever since I’ve graduated, I naturally gravitate towards any (academically sound) Inca-related texts and discussions. When I heard about Turn Right at Machu Picchu, I was immediately intrigued. I’m usually wary of travel narratives, just because ones that I read in the past did not go into as much depth about history and culture as I would have liked. However, this book seemed like an interesting read simply based on the synopsis: an outdoor adventure writer sets out to retrace the journey of Hiram Bingham III, the explorer who “rediscovered” Machu Picchu. I decided to give travel narratives another chance, and I was pleasantly surprised!
Mark Adams, our inexperienced travel writer, tells his narrative in an easy, self-deprecating manner that brings a refreshing sense of humor to the text. Adams does not take himself too seriously, and he is not afraid to depict parts of his journey where he isn’t the “brave adventurer” or anything like that. In fact, Adams narrates his journey through the Andes in such a way that the reader feels as if they are learning about the Inca and experiencing the journey alongside him. He also gives attention to the men who accompanied and led him throughout his journey through the Andes. John Leivers, the Australian adventurer who acted as Adams’s main guide and informant about the Inca sites they visited, was a particular favorite person of mine. I actually found myself being more interested in Leivers than Adams at times!
Adams intersperses chapters about Harem Bingham between the chapters about his own adventure. It was very interesting to learn about Bingham’s life and how he became involved with discovering ancient Inca sites. Adams tells Bingham’s story in an honest manner. He is not glorified or overly praised; it is just an honest historical account about how Bingham went about his journey in the Andes and how it culminated in his arrival at Machu Picchu.
The only criticism I have about this book is the lack of description about the Inca sites that Adams visited and the Andean surroundings that he traveled through. Inca sites such as Choquequirao, Espiritu Pampa, and even Machu Picchu were not given enough thorough descriptions for my liking. I felt as if I was there with Adams emotionally, but not physically. If I was reading this book without any prior knowledge about the Inca, Machu Picchu, and the Andes, I don’t think I would get as much satisfaction out of Adams’s adventure due to lack of detail. This criticism could simply stem from the fact that I’m a fiend for any type of information about this region and period of history: who knows. Overall, it was a very entertaining, educational read, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Inca and Harem Bingham, or anyone who desires to read a well-written adventure narrative!