Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Turn Right at Machu Picchu

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

Publication Date: June 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Memoir, Travel Writing
Pages: Hardcover, 325pp
ISBN-13: 9780525952244

(Received from an honest review from Dutton)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Mark Adams on the WEB: website

Excerpt from
Turn Right at Machu Picchu
Book Trailer:


What happens when an adventure travel expert-who's never actually done anything adventurous-tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu?

July 24, 1911, was a day for the history books. For on that rainy morning, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the hero explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world's greatest archaeological sites.

Mark Adams has spent his career editing adventure and travel magazines, so his plan to investigate the allegations against Bingham by retracing the explorer's perilous path to Machu Picchu isn't completely far- fetched, even if it does require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. With a crusty, antisocial Australian survivalist and several Quechua-speaking, coca-chewing mule tenders as his guides, Adams takes readers through some of the most gorgeous and historic landscapes in Peru, from the ancient Inca capital of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba.

Along the way he finds a still-undiscovered country populated with brilliant and eccentric characters, as well as an answer to the question that has nagged scientists since Hiram Bingham's time: Just what was Machu Picchu?


July 24th marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu, a massive Incan landmark in Peru's Andes Mountains. Travel writer Mark Adams set out on an adventure to follow the steps of Yale professor Hiram Bingham III, who is credited with the discovery. In his latest book,
Turn Right at Machu Picchu Adams attempts to find out how Bingham found the city and to try to give some light to the recent controversy surrounding Bingham and his motives. This book is both travelogue and memoir, as Adams travels the Inca trail with some interesting travel companions. Readers will love Adams' light-hearted writing style and his extensive knowledge of all things Inca.

When I was approached to review this book, I got really excited. As many of you know I am a freelance writer, and have worked in both print and online media. One of my very first accepted assignments was a piece on the Inca Trail, the city of Cusco and the ruins of the ancient city of Machu Picchu, so this review is near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons. Travel writing is something that has always been a strength for me. The research and the travel and finding out about little known areas and legends and even meeting the people who live in this type of environment is exciting and full of possibilities and I think this book by Mark Adams really embodied the sense of adventure that goes along with this kind of writing.

One of Mark Adams strengths with this book is his ability to write in depth and thoughtful descriptions of both the areas he is visiting and the people around him. He is clear and concise and the reader can almost envision what he was seeing by reading his words. He pays great attention to even the smallest of details and in travel writing that is so important. You want readers to like this place, you want them to want to take a mule up a mountain. You have to get into the place and it's people and make others want to go there and he pulls it off with style in this book. This is a place that many avid hikers and adventurers want to travel to sometime in their lives. It is majestic and beautiful and there is a sense of awe that surrounds it and Mark Adams is able to bring those feelings out in his writing.

One of the goals that Adams was undertaking in traveling to Machu Picchu was to learn more about Professor Hiram Bingham III and to try to shed some light on what he was trying to find in the Andes mountains. In later years Bingham has been heavily criticized and accused of stealing artifacts from the lost city and several other allegations even resulting in a controversy over whether he really did discover Machu Picchu. I think Adams picked a really interesting person to research. Here was a man who actually influenced pop culture. He is the model, if you will, for the highly popular movie character Indiana Jones. He was a professor, an academic from Yale, yet he had a sense of adventure that wouldn't let him go. I thought Adams did a fantastic job of giving readers a glimpse into Bingham's life and even coming up with some credible ideas on what really happened at Machu Picchu.

This is book I would recommend to readers who are adventurers at heart. I am an avid hiker myself, and Machu Picchu is definitely on my bucket list. This book is part memoir and part travelogue. It is full of descriptions of all things Inca and the author shows a deep appreciation for the country of Peru and it's heritage, as well as, the people and the ancient sites. He visited not only Machu Picchu, but other little known areas with an Australian survivalist and a bunch of mule herders... LOL! Definitely a great armchair adventure for those who can't visit this glorious place!

Turn Right at Machu Picchu is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Mark Adams is the author of the acclaimed history Mr. America, which The Washington Post named a Best Book of 2009. A writer for many national magazines, including GQ, Outside, and National Geographic Adventure, he lives near New York City with is wife and children.

1 comment:

James Byrne said...

Nice review to a great read. I loved the way Hiram Bingham was linked with Harry Steele (Heston in SECRET OF THE INCAS) and Indiana Jones.