Thursday, July 16, 2015

Literary Travel to Peru

Literary Travel to Peru

I was lucky enough to travel to Peru with nine high school students and a teaching partner recently.  We traveled from June 22nd to July 2nd, 2015.

Peru is a very cool place with such a varied geography and culture. We started our journey in Lima, Peru on the Pacific ocean and met wonderful people and ate some excellent ceviche.  We then traveled to the Andes Mountains and spent time in the Sacred Valley, at Machu Picchu and Cuzco.  The mountains are so beautiful and I have no words for how amazing it is.  I didn't want to leave.  The mountains were definitely my favorite part of the trip and the little old ladies were the best!  We then flew to Puerto Maldanado in the Amazon Rainforest where we traveled two hours downriver on the Madre de Dios and we stayed in a eco lodge.  This place was like heaven on earth and it was really hot and humid.  We fed monkeys and caiman and hiked through the jungle.  I loved, loved the loud noises of the jungle.

Whenever I travel, I choose to read a book about the place I'm visiting and it always enhances my experience.  It was hard to choose just one book to carry with me.  Here is the group of books I had to choose from.  I hope you find one or two to enhance your literary journey to Peru.

The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland by Hugh Thompson

This is the book I carried all over Peru.  It was so perfect for me. The White Rock is full of Inca history and the history of Peru.  The White Rock has chapters titled on Inca ruins, places I visited and places I didn't.  This book was a great traveling companion and informed me of all I needed to know.  Highly recommend.  the only downside it was written around 10 years ago.  I had a hard time finding recent books written about Peru as this one seemed to be the most current.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Following in the footsteps of the explorers Gene Savoy and Hiram Bingham, Thomson set off into the jungle to find the lost city of Llactapat. This is the story of his journey to discover it via the interconnecting paths the Incas laid across the Andes.

Eight Feet in the Andes; Travels with a Mule from Ecuador to Cuzco by Dervla Murphy

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The eight feet belong to Dervla Murphy, her nine-year-old daughter Rachel and Juana, an elegant mule, who together clambered the length of Peru, from Cajamarca on the border with Ecuador, to Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital, over 1300 miles to the south. With only the most basic necessities to sustain them and spending most of their time above 10,000 feet, their journey was marked by extreme discomfort, occasional danger and even the temporary loss of Juana over a precipice. Yet mother and daughter, a formidable duo, were unflagging in their sympathetic response to the perilous beauty and impoverished people of the Andes.

Inca Kola; a traveler's tale of Peru by Matthew Ferris

I love the cover on this one.  Inca Kola is actually the brand name of their soda pop company.  I actually bought a shirt for son that says Inca Kola.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
Paperback. Pub Date: 1993 08 Pages: 248 in Publisher: Orion Paperbacks Inca-Kola is the funny. Absorbing account of Matthew Parriss fourth trip to Peru on a bizarre holiday which takes him among bandits. Prostitutes. peasants and riots He and his three companions seem to head into trouble. not away from it. and he describes the troubles. curiosities and wonders they meet with the spell-binding fascination of a traveller relating adventures over the campfire. 'A backpacker's classic:
atmospheric. touching. instructive and compulsively readable 'The Times.

Cradle of Gold; The Story of Hiram Bingham, A Real-Life Indiana Jones and the Search for Machu Picchu by Christopher Heaney.

This is the book I wanted to read but couldn't find in my local library.  Indiana Jones is based on the explorer, Hiram Bingham who is credited as the scientific discoverer of Machu Picchu.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1911, a young Peruvian boy led an American explorer and Yale historian named Hiram Bingham into the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Hidden amidst the breathtaking heights of the Andes, this settlement of temples, tombs and palaces was the Incas' greatest achievement. Tall, handsome, and sure of his destiny, Bingham believed that Machu Picchu was the Incas' final refuge, where they fled the Spanish Conquistadors. Bingham made Machu Picchu famous, and his dispatches from the jungle cast him as the swashbuckling hero romanticized today as a true Indiana Jones-like character. But his excavation of the site raised old specters of conquest and plunder, and met with an indigenous nationalism that changed the course of Peruvian history. Though Bingham successfully realized his dream of bringing Machu Picchu's treasure of skulls, bones and artifacts back to the United States, conflict between Yale and Peru persists through the present day over a simple question: Who owns Inca history?

In this grand, sweeping narrative, Christopher Heaney takes the reader into the heart of Peru's past to relive the dramatic story of the final years of the Incan empire, the exhilarating recovery of their final
cities and the thought-provoking fight over their future. Drawing on original research in untapped archives, Heaney vividly portrays both a stunning landscape and the complex history of a fascinating
region that continues to inspire awe and controversy today.

The Last Days of the Incas by Kim Macquarrie

One of the teachers I traveled with was reading this book in Peru.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Kim MacQuarrie lived in Peru for five years and became fascinated by the Incas and the history of the Spanish conquest. Drawing on both native and Spanish chronicles, he vividly describes the dramatic story of the conquest, with all its savagery and suspense. This authoritative, exciting history is among the most powerful and important accounts of the culture of the South American Indians and the Spanish Conquest.

There is a lot of non-fiction written about Peru and is much harder to find fiction.  Yet, I found some.
These last two books are fiction:

Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer.  Several of his books take place in Peru but many do not.  I have never read any of his books but I noticed them in all the airport bookstores in Peru.  So reading Llosa would be a good way to experience Peru.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
Set in an isolated, rundown community in the Peruvian Andes, Vargas Llosa's novel tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances involving the Shining Path guerrillas and a local couple performing cannibalistic sacrifices with strange similarities to the Dionysian rituals of ancient Greece. Part detective novel and part political allegory, it offers a panoramic view of Peruvian society; not only of the current political violence and social upheaval, but also of the country's past and its connection to Indian culture and
pre-Hispanic mysticism.

God of Luck by Ruthann Lum McCunn

I love this author and have read several of her books.  I will definitely be reading God of Luck.  The Chinese culture is prevalent in Peru, especially in Lima.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

“ Held me captive right from the start.”—Alan Cheuse, NPR, All Things Considered

“Her clear voice and simple but elegant style easily turns this work into a real page-turner.”—Library Journal

“A vivid tale of a faraway time.”—Asian Week

“Beautifully combines the hardships and brutality of the kidnapping of a Chinese man, conditions on the slave ships, and the bitterness of backbreaking labor in a foreign land with the sadness and determination of a wife and family back home. . . . A story of emotional depth and truth.”—Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

“Will keep readers spellbound and cheering to the final page.”—Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of Farewell to Manzanar

“I love God of Luck.”—Da Chen, author of Brothers

Ah Lung and his beloved wife, Bo See, are separated by cruel fate when, like thousands of other Chinese men in the nineteenth century, he is kidnapped, enslaved, and shipped to the deadly guano mines off the coast of Peru. Praying to the God of Luck and using their own wits, they never lose hope of someday being reunited.

So there you have it folks.  I wish you all the opportunity to travel to Peru and experience the wonders Peru has to offer.  If there are any books about Peru you have read and can add to the list, please put in the comments.