Turn Right at Machu Picchu

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A Review of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time 
By Mark Adams

Every so often I go through a phase where I feel the need for more motivation to do something with my life. By that, I don’t mean career-wise, but life-wise (not the insurance company). Life is so much more than just working, eating, sleeping, and breeding, and I want to experience to whole plethora of adventure that the world has to offer. Ever since I learned about it, Machu Picchu has been on the list of places I want to see in my lifetime; I’ve always found the ancient Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas fascinating and wanted to learn more about their empires. I often wonder: How did they all manage to be so sophisticated in art, architecture, and science without the help of today’s technology? How did all of these civilizations just disappear, and what happened to all the people? These are questions that we will likely never know the answer to, regardless of how many ruins we excavate. Needless to say that Machu Picchu is definitely on my bucket list.

As I perused the outdoor adventure section of the bookstore looking for my much-needed inspiration, I came across Turn Right at Machu Picchu, and immediately knew this was a book I needed to read. (And boy, I was not disappointed!) I bought this book around 2 years ago when I had just finished reading A Walk in The Woods and What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, and finally got around to pulling it off my shelf.

Adams, the author, had long been an adventure travel expert without being a real adventurer. Upon feeling the itch for more information about Incan culture and Incan ruins, he made the life-changing decision to follow in the footsteps of Hiram Bingham III, the man who rediscovered Machu Picchu and brought news of it to the modern world. After much deliberation and advice from his travel guide, an Australian adventure guru, Adams decides to walk the exact trail that Bingham followed to get to the city in the clouds, which is a trek that takes almost a month. There’s only one problem: Adams is an out-of shape, “martini explorer” who has never even slept in a tent before. Throughout the book, Adams’ inexperience with trekking combined with his witty writing makes for a hilariously written tale of his first (and maybe his last) full-on adventure. In this book, we encounter a host of eccentric characters and get a taste for the hilariously frustrating and simultaneously amazing Peruvian culture as we travel along the trail with Adams and Bingham to rediscover the lost city and speculate about its origin. 

Adams brilliantly sets up this book so that his research about Bingham’s trek perfectly parallels his own, making the story easy to follow. Not only that, but he struck the perfect balance between history, humor, and modern-day adventuring to where at no point do you drift off into the world of boredom as he talks about events that occurred more than 100 years ago. As Adams experiences all the ups, down, and really-high-ups of Peru (seriously… their tallest mountain is ~22,000 feet), we get the pleasure of experiencing the trail along with him; we tag along with his frustration, joy, fatigue, awe, confusion, and friendship along the way, and  IMHO, it could not make for a better story.

My recommendations: This book is 100% worth the read, especially if you 1) love adventure, 2) have any interest in Peruvian or Incan culture, or 3) want to see Machu Picchu for yourself one day. I, for one, know now that I want to make the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu by foot to experience the full Incan culture. After reading this book, you just might as well.

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