I heard about Machu Picchu and saw its picture for the first time only after it was declared as one of the new seven wonders of the world. I then read “The Motorcycle Diaries” by Che Guevara and that was when I first learnt something about this marvelous place. I also got to read about the Inca empire and its decline thanks to that wonderful book. After reading that book, I got so intrigued about Inca empire and Machu Picchu that I had to watch couple of documentaries and read some articles online to quench the curiosity. That was when I came across this book on Amazon in the bestsellers list. I knew I had to read this book but I took few years to actually get to it. I am so glad I did read this book. It is a wonderful book which gives you a virtual tour of all the popular Inca sites along with history about these places.
Turn right at Machu Picchu – Rediscovering the lost city one step at a time
Author: Mark Adams
Hiram Bingham III from Yale discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. Mark Adams tries to retrace the path that Bingham took when he made expeditions in search of the lost city of Incas. The author is an “unadventurous adventure writer” who has never even slept in a tent before. But he still hikes Peru’s mountains and rain forests as he tries to retrace the Inca trails that Bingham took, with the help of an Australian guide, John. The book is a mix of adventure, travel and history which made it an interesting read.
The author gives us a history of the Inca empire, their last rebel king Manco Inca and fall of Inca empire after Spaniards came. I found this to be the most interesting part of the book. How an army of 168 spaniards was able to defeat a king who had forty thousand Inca soldiers shocked me! I am now in search of a documentary video that can explain this Inca history in detail.
Mark tries to address the question – what exactly was Machu Picchu? Was it a city or a pilgrimage or the lost city of Incas? He has collected all the theories that various people have put forth about this place. The author talks about the multiple expeditions that Bingham undertook to search for the lost city of Incas to which the Inca emperor fled when the spaniards attacked and the controversies that resulted from the artifacts that were carried back to US from Peru by Bingham. He also mentions some other people who were involved in the discovery of Machu Picchu and some of the other Inca sites.
The author makes two different trips to Machu Picchu – first time, following the path that Bingham took during his first expedition and the second time, by hiking the Inca trail for five days. In his second hike, he also witnesses the winter solstice at the sun temple in Machu Picchu. I so badly want to visit this place after reading the book and learning more about Inca empire and their sites in Peru.
Other than Machu Picchu, Mark talks about these other interesting Inca sites – Choquequirao, Vitcos, Espiritu Pampa, Llactapata, Aguas Celientes, Koricancha sun temple, Vilcabamba, Yanama, Quillabamba, Patallacta, Phuyupatamarca etc. It was interesting to know that Incas worshipped Apu (mountains), Panchamama (Mother Earth), Sun and their ancestors. I did learn quite a bit about Peruvians too.
I loved the writing style and the way the book has been written, even more than the content itself. The author is modest about his capabilities and is not arrogant or egoistic like many other travel writers out there e.g Bill Bryson – my biggest complaint about Bill Bryson’s books is that he is condescending towards the people with whom he travels or the people whom he meets while traveling. Also the author has done an extensive research on the subject, has provided plenty of photos to give us an idea about the places and people that he mentions in the book. I also loved the fact that the author was funny without being mean.
I want to read Bingham’s book – “Lost city of the Incas” someday. One other interesting fact I learned from the book was that the character of “Indiana Jones” was inspired from Bingham who was a professor and an explorer.
Hands down this is one of the best books on travel and adventure I have ever read.
I loved this quote from the book –
“Some humans are born great and others achieve greatness, most of us are perfectly content to have slightly-above-averageness thrust upon us”.
I hated history in school but now I love it. I guess the fact that I don’t have to memorize dates and years is the main reason. Do read this book if you love history and want to learn about Incan culture and history.
P.S: Sorry for my absence. Will be back soon to commenting and blogging.