Book Review: Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Fun fact: I went to Peru two months ago.  I know you guys don’t know that yet, and it’s because I haven’t appropriated the time to write about it.  Dreadful, I know.  I have some really exciting posts in the making though- they will be worth the wait!

I wanted to start at the beginning, or near to, and that includes discussing trip prep.  Once it was determined that I was, officially, 100%, no-doubt going to Peru (meaning I had a travel buddy, approved time off, and already submitted a non-refundable deposit) I began my research.  I am a big proponent of being prepared for a trip, especially abroad.  This includes a lot more than having the right outfits, getting the appropriate vaccinations, or making sure you have an adequate amount of Clif bars for each day of the journey.  I like to take it further, and this stems from my time participating in the program that took me to Morocco/Turkey/Sri Lanka.  We spent an entire semester (before and after) reading, writing, studying, and discussing the social/political/economic/cultural discourse of all the societies we were going to immerse ourselves in.  This not only helped us better understand each location we traveled, but how we fit into each of those places; and then break down any preconceived notions and ingrained thoughts we had, and reconfigure them to place ourselves into the reality we were surrounded by.

Confused?  That’s okay, we were too, the majority of the time we were in class participating in those studies.  The point is, we broke it down and made the effort to not only see, but know, the place we were in.  History plays a big part in doing that.

 

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

Mark Adams

This book is a wonderful example of traveling with purpose.  Every traveler’s purpose is different, but it’s always so important to find yours.

The author, Mark Adams, sets out on a journey to live the life he has written about (or edited through others’ writing) for so long.  Adams follows the footsteps of Hiram Bingham III, the “discoverer” of Machu Picchu (while reading this book, you will learn that he, obviously, did not discover Machu Picchu, as it had already been built by human beings, but instead brought it back into the spotlight of modern Western society).

The trek that Adams completes is established with the intent to learn the truth about Bingham: his “discoveries” and claim to fame, artifacts found, and path forged.  Adams writes an exceptionally detailed account of history, both of Bingham, and the Incas themselves, the society responsible for Machu Picchu and much of current Peruvian culture.

This book will no doubt prepare you to take yourself to the Incan capital, teaching you that there is so much more to Peru, the Inca empire, and South America, than Machu Picchu alone.  In fact, some of the most fascinating and spiritual remains of the Inca are hundreds and thousands of miles apart.  By the time I found myself spiraling down a gravel road at 60mph on the edge of a cliff through the Sacred Valley, I already knew all about the Vilcabamba and Urubamba Rivers, the Ollantaytambo ruins (which were one of my favorite places to visit), and Mt. Salcantay, all of which were described to me at various times throughout my own trip, and I was able to knowingly smile and nod as the speaker relayed facts to the group.

In fact, so much information was presented in this book, that even after having gone and seen it for myself, I feel the need to re-read the book to catch what I had overlooked before.  Of course, reading about it, both before and after, will help one understand at an incredibly detailed level, which will in turn allow you to appreciate it so much more, and that is priceless.  There’s nothing like climbing to the edge of a mountain and seeing everything that is before you, and understanding all that went into it becoming what it is today.  How it was formed, the battles fought over it, the prices paid.

I would argue that it’s imperative.

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