My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Around the World: 24 of 52 (Peru)
Mark Adams decides to trace the journey of the man who claimed to "discover" Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, and takes a very strenuous hike through Peru. This book chronicles that journey, as well as a return trip he took to hike the "Inca Trail."
If Adams had only written about his own journey, I'm not sure it would have been that interesting. He has worked in travel writing, albeit more as an armchair editor than a traveler, for years. He had connections to help him prepare, research, and advise him on equipment. He was never without a staff of cooks, guides, mule handlers, and hosts. Even though the conditions are hard, it isn't exactly a journey of self-discovery, which is what I prefer in travel writing. Nope. Adams is here to see the places that Bingham saw. And to learn important things like how you should wear two pairs of socks when hiking.
Luckily, Adams didn't just write about his own trek. He fills in the gaps with information on the Incas, the birth of archaeology and what probably happened with Machu Picchu before Bingham ever got there, and how the Spanish invasion of the 1500s and 1600s impacted the direction of history. There were some fun factoids that I enjoyed, like how there are other important mountain-top sites that might be even more interesting than Machu Picchu (but possibly not as breathtaking), that Tupac Shakur's name comes from an ancient Incan leader, and even learning more about the development of National Geographic.
There are two people mentioned in this book that I think have more interesting connections with Machu Picchu. The first is John, who has guided people through this area for decades (and some of his story is here). The other is Johan Reinhard, who has researched extensively about the meaning of the sites, and I plan to read his book, Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center.
No matter the tone or reason, this book makes me want to join the many who trek the Inca Trail. I'm not sure I'd ever be physically capable, but it is a nice dream!