Turn Right At Machu Picchu

Turn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

It’s the kind of book that makes you want to put on a pith helmet and go careening into the jungle, setting free your inner swashbuckler and letting him run wild with a machete. Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a hilariously well written account of a modern-day arm-chair traveler turned nimble jungle explorer who sets out to see just what kind of shenanigans Hiram Bingham was up to in 1911.

Bingham, the widely derided Yalie who “discovered” Machu Picchu a century ago, turned out to be a fascinating man of many hats, including Ivy League educator, expedition mastermind, archaeologist, and the sometimes-absconder of Incan treasure.

Adams, who is the editor of a well known outdoor magazine, prefers to read about the exploits of others at 27,000 feet rather than departing the glass and steel environs of his office in New York City. Well suited for Adams then is John, a grizzled, lives-off-the-land type, who, while showing obvious disdain for Adams’ well manicured hands, patiently shows Adams the delicate art of machete wielding, mule-kick avoidance, and how to politely leave specific deposits in the foliage. While re-tracing the steps of the impressively accomplished Bingham, Adams comes to appreciate both the simplicity and hardship of living with the Earth, the beauty of the Andes, the impressive architecture and engineering of the Incas, and the wily lengths that Peruvian mule drivers will go to in order to pull pranks on each other.

It’s always fun to read about places that you have been, and this book does not disappoint with several full page pictures of Machu Picchu from “discovery” throughout its restoration.