Hiram Bingham was the genuine article. It is obvious that he was at least in part the model for the Indiana Jones character, but Bingham was no Hollywood hero. Though he was not trained as an archaeologist he discovered most of the known major ruins of the Inca civilization long hidden by jungle and protected by almost impassible mountains and raging rivers.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section is a brief history of the Incas. Though superseded by new discoveries this section is still worth reading. However, it is not adventure travel and the reader can safely skip to the second section where he describes the search. The third section is about the discovery of Machu Picchu.
“Suddenly I found myself confronted with the walls of ruined houses built of the finest quality of Inca stone work. It was hard to see them for they were partly covered with trees and moss, the growth of centuries, but in the dense shadow, hiding in bamboo thickets and tangled vines, appeared here and there walls of white granite ashlars carefully cut and exquisitely fitted together. . . . Dimly I began to realize that this wall and its adjoining semicircular temple over the cave were as fine as the finest stonework in the world. It fairly took my breath away. What could this place be?”
Bingham’s discoveries fundamentally changed the conventional wisdom about indigenous American cultures. Here was evidence of a civilization that built structures at least equal to anything in Europe.
Image: Hiram Bingham in 1911 after returning from the jungle site of Espiritu Pampa. Note the saddle mule, the snake-proof boots, the waxed cotton jacket with the bulge of a pistol just above his left hand, and the battered felt hat. This is the epitome of the experienced jungle explorer. He looks very thin in this and other photos taken at the time. There was no Cipro or other antibiotics. Photograph taken with Bingham’s camera by an unknown member of the expedition.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes may have a rightful claim to being the most badass person alive, but that doesn’t change how impressive it is that he just climbed Everest at 65. After hearing the audio from him at the summit I feel exceptionally lazy and guilty that I didn’t go to the gym this morning. It serves as a powerful reminder that with dedication and determination, you can be as awesome as you dare to be.
I had a bunch of crazy ideas on how to go about attacking the inauguration events plan-wise, including staying out all night until the bars closed at 4 am and then heading straight to the mall. Instead, what actually happened is that I went back home, slept through my alarm, and didn’t make it down to the mall until 9:30 (lame-o). This time, however, I was with a small group of people, so I had to be better behaved than on Sunday. We ended up camping in front of a jumbo tron next to the Washington Monument. While we were a mile away from the actual events, you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the crowd.
History was in the making, and I got to be present for it. For this, it was worth the cold and the bottlenecks and the extremely frustrating barriers that blocked off almost all the routes around the area. Trying to leave, we ended up in a part of a crowd crammed between a row of porta-potties and a chain link fence running along Constitutional Avenue. As the crowd waited in a standstill, the adventurous started walking on top of the porta-potties. Meanwhile, those against the chainlink fence finally organized a collective surge and toppled the fence over. As far as mobs go, it was a fun one to be in. Everyone was in irrevocably high spirits because of the events, so even the frustration of the delays had a real fun light-heartedness to it.
Now that it is all over, I must admit it will be nice for DC to return from urban jungle back to my home city. But few events have afforded more opportunities for real urban and crowd adventuring, from the crazy and packed night life, to the elbow-to-elbow throngs lined as far as the eye can see, to the immediate sense of community with strangers, to being a part of history–I imagine it will be a very long time before I get to experience anything similar.
A week from tomorrow I’m headed off for a week of skiing at La Plagne 1800. But as you can see from the snow report above, there might not be much skiing to be done there. Looks like they have a bit of a base building, and they are getting more snow today. Crossing my fingers on this one.
Thankfully, after France, I’m headed up to Swtizerland, where the snow report is a bit cheerier and places like Saas Fee at least have some lifts going.
Update: Apparently I got needlessly worried this morning. The image here is from the La Plagne webcam, and it looks like there is tons of snow on the slopes and I should have some great conditions. They note that it was closed threw me off, but thankfully I was wrong.
Woo hoo! My first month of National Geographic Adventure arrived. The subscription was a present that I am most grateful for. Hopefully it will fuel some more trip ideas and other crazy things here on Questing for Adventure.
The online version of the mag is pretty good too. Check it out.