The Lost City of Z (Review)

The Lost City of Z (Review)

knew a girl, once, who dreamed of hiking across Brazil and the Amazon. If I still knew where she was, I’d send her this book if only to give her the relief of lost dreams. If you like outdoorsy things, backpacking and camping, you might find this book interesting.

So, in the early part of the last century, the English were sending out explorers all over the globe, driven to fill in those blank spots on the map. You know, that whole “Dr. Livingston, I presume” stuff. And one of the most famous at the time was Percy Fawcett, a man driven to map out of Amazon and, more directly, to find the reputed lost city (i.e. El Diablo), in pursuit of which the Spanish had thrown away so many lives. Code-naming it “Z”, Fawcett launched a number of expeditions into the unknown jungles, working through tribes and trying to locate Z and its vast riches. Sadly, he never found it. Worst, he died in his last underfinanced, desperate attempt, his body (and party, including his son) never recovered.

After he vanished, the world demanded to find out what happened. Many expeditions were launched and it’s reckoned that over a hundred people died in this hopeless search.

Wind the time clock forward to the present day (or, rather, 2000 or so) when author David Grann decided to find out just what happened to Fawcett, including an ill-advised (he’s never camped) one-man expedition of his own. So from there, the book is quite interesting, switching back and forth between Fawcett’s expeditions in the teens and twenties, and Grann’s efforts to get to the interior and unravel the mystery. It makes for interesting reading.

Remember that girl with the fixation to go to this very place? Well, this book pulls no punches about what you might find in the Amazon. All manner of rots (that can make the flesh slide right off). Piranhas. Angry tribes (some of them cannibals). Maggots that burrow under your skin. Starvation. Even the bugs, the swarms of them, clouds of horrors. Really, it’s just a green hell, one that I’d just as soon stay out of.

I won’t say exactly how it plays out. However, Grann claims to discover evidence of both the fate of Fawcett as well as the actual location of Z (and while he and some scientists might be right, it all wraps up a little too neatly for me to believe it actually happened as described). Still, it was a good book, interesting history about a time I didn’t know much about.

And the next time your kids want to camp out in the back yard, read them a couple of paragraphs from this book and then tuck them back into their little beds.