Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book Club Meeting - January

Our January book club selection was "Turn Right at Machu Picchu" by Mark Adams. As we're trying "eating out" for a while, we met in Trupiano's private room. Food and service were excellent and the room was very quiet.

Most enjoyed the book which told three stories. One story was about the author's adventure in Peru researching the second story of the American adventurer/explorer Hiram Bingham who "discovered" Machu Picchu and attempting to determine if he was a villain for smuggling out priceless artifacts. The third story was about the Incas and their fatal encounters with the Spanish. Many people including Steven Spielberg say Hiram provided some of the inspiration for Indiana Jones, in particular his penchant for the fedora and his "explorer" outfit.

For a tourist like myself, described in one of the reviews as the middle-aged (well, getting a little past that) martini (uh-uh - only wine) explorer, this sort of book provides the thrills that I have never really liked to experience first hand. Frankly at my age,  I'm really happy to have a nice hotel to come back to after a day of sight seeing and traveling around and I like to have a glass of wine and a decent meal. Living rough holds no mysteries for me; I know what's it's like to be filthy and sleep on the ground. I do however love to read about others doing it, in particular those who really enjoy it.  I'm also not fond of anything too physically risky while out of the country - I do not want to break a bone in Burma for example or have a heart attack in Guatemala. The author was not an experienced outdoors man at the outset and writes hilariously about many aspects of this kind of travel including this:

"Have you ever seen Mr. Travel Guy? He's the fellow who strides through international airports dressed like he's flying off to hunt wildebeests - shirt with dozens of pockets, drip-dry pants that zip off into shorts, floppy hat with a cord pulled tight under the chin in case a twister blows through the baggage claim area. All of this describes exactly what I was wearing. I could have been trick-or-treating as Hemingway."

 Mr.  Bingham was a tantalizing character, the product of two generations of missionaries.  He married a Tiffany - the first smart move for someone who wishes to spend life as an explorer.  He seemed to embody many wonderful character traits and skills: his organizational abilities, writing, teaching, flying, speechifying, leadership.  Most of us would have liked to know more about him.
There was discussion about the author's use of metaphor and simile. To some readers,  they seemed inappropriate, sometimes awkward and slowed down the action of the adventure. Others enjoyed them. 

Overall, the group was pleased with the selection and if one is contemplating a trip to Machu Picchu I'd say it's a must read...even if you are simply traveling to Peru and do not intend to visit Machu, it would still provide some fascinating background material.

1 comment:

  1. I have been to Machu Picchu and found it really amazing, but didn't experience any thrill, sorry... :D