Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time
I went into this book without previous expectations. The genre is enjoyable for me and I’m fascinated by pre-Columbian history and archaeology. The plot is simple: a journalist with no adventurous background becomes interested in the explorer Hiram Bingham III and decides to travel to Peru to follow in his footsteps.
Hiram Bingham is an interesting subject, a controversial explorer who first brought the wonders of the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu to light in 1911. No, he didn’t “discover” Machu Picchu, but he did photograph it and publish his narratives of explorations of the area for the first time. Let’s at least give credit where it’s due.
Reading other’s reviews about this book is irritating, as they tend to impose modern judgements on something that happened over 100 years ago. Good heavens, folks, 1911 was another time. Mores and opinions are very different now, and not always for the better, in my opinion. It amazes me that so many people enjoy historical fiction but not real history.
The author does include a lot of (mostly self-deprecating) humor into his story, which is necessary when writing about hiking around the Andes. After all, the going is incredibly tough. It’s no wonder this area wasn’t explored previously. It made my feet hurt and my back spasm to just read about it! He also pokes fun at tourism, which in a serious way is becoming a detriment to the ruins.
One thing I didn’t realize before reading this book is that the area around Machu Picchu contains many more Incan ruins. The location was obviously important to the culture, and although we may never know the “why,” we are finding more of the “where” all the time.
This book is a perfect example of the value of audiobooks; the guide’s Australian accent was really fun, which would have been lost while reading. Garman does a great job with pacing and his pronunciations were fine (as far as I know). The production could have been better, however; there is not enough of a pause between paragraphs sometimes, a common occurrence with audiobooks. Nothing major.
This book reminded me strongly of “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann. Very similar plot (and same continent!) with no real solution to the mystery. The author is telling his own story and allows the reader to come to their own conclusion.