Machu Picchu…Who Knew?
Up until quite recently, my only exposure to Machu Picchu was the typical National Geographic style photo in ‘Places to See Before You Die’ sort of articles. Suddenly I feel vaguely like an expert. I say vaguely for two reasons: one, because I’ve never been, and two because while I have read an entire book on the subject, I probably couldn’t speak on the subject of Machu Picchu without correcting myself thirty times. Some of the spelling are a little surreal, and I can only imagine the pronunciations…
I was approached by Dutton Books with the offer of a copy of TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU by Mark Adams with the suggestion that I consider it for review. I took that offer and am glad I did. Rarely do I read nonfiction, and generally when I do, it’s a history book that I end up enjoying despite the textbook nature of the writing. But I could tell this book was different from the beginning.
1. Love the cover–love it. If you know me at all, you know I’m very big on covers. This cover has a little bit of everything…it’s a smorgasboard of images layered with pops of color that draws your eye to every corner of the intricate detailing. It seems to encompass the vastness and variety that is (at least by Adams’ account) Peru.
2. It’s part history book, part travelogue (and very funny). With talk in the news of the approach of the 100 year anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s ‘discovery’ of Machu Picchu (July 24, 1911), Adams’ curiosity and sense of adventure sparked, and suddenly he was anxious to see the Natural Wonder for himself. This book is Adams’ whirlwind tour on the subject, and I think it beautifully balances the history of the Incans and Peru with Hiram’s century-old search for Machu Picchu and Adams’ own, modern day trek through the mountains, canyons, and Amazon jungles of Peru.
3. I am a tourist (defined in the book as someone who likes to see things but who is, ultimately, a slave to his own comfort), but I like the *idea* of being a traveler. As I read this book, my thoughts were yo-yo-esque. “Oh, that must be beautiful…I’d love to do that!…Yikes, that sounds painful…I don’t want to do that…” I very much enjoyed living vicariously through Mark Adams’ hardcore trek.
Having avidly read this book, I feel like I know 100% more about Peru and the Incans and Machu Picchu than I did before I cracked the cover. But at the same time, I also feel like so much is shrouded in mystery. How on earth did the Incans manage, without steel tools (or GPS), to create such precison walls and buildings that aligned with other buildings on other mountaintops miles away?? I’m confounded. I want to go to Peru and see it all for myself…and yet…maybe I don’t. One thing is for sure though: next time I see a National Geographic picture of Machu Picchu, I will examine it more closely and feel a certain sense of being “in on” the secrets. And that, my friends, is priceless.