Friday, March 14, 2014

Lost in the Amazon... Two Book Reviews

I already had no desire to ever, ever go the Amazon. While I love being outdoors, I don't like bugs and my idea of camping is staying in a hotel. The idea of trekking through a jungle for months with insects as big as cats and snakes that could eat me whole is not really what I consider to be a good time. Reading Scott Wallace's The Unconquered and David Grann's The Lost City of Z only affirmed this. I love learning about new places, but I'd rather do so curled up on my couch with a glass of wine and comforts like electricity and running water. I am the epitome of the arm traveler.

Yet in reading these two non-fiction accounts of Amazon exploration I can understand the allure. Both books are written by intrepid and accomplished journalists who, in the interest of "the story" find themselves slogging through the jungle, as obsessed as the people they are writing about. The Unconquered follows the contemporary explorer Sydney Possuelo and his endeavors to protect, but not meet, tribes in the interior of the Amazon who have no contact with the outside world. The Lost City of Z reads much along the same lines, except that Grann is re-tracing, and providing a comprehensive history of, Percy Fawcett's travels through the Amazon in the 1920s and his obsession with finding the mythical, golden city known only as Z.

Both books are absorbing and well-researched, as well being as entertaining reads. I recommend them both to anyone interested in adventure, exploration or discovering the limits of the both will-power and the imagination. For what I also took from these books was a celebration of the determination of the human spirit. Both Possuelo and Fawcett suffered immense hardship and little glamour. Their adventures were not always supported or hailed for the extraordinary feats that they were. Yet both men were driven on to explore the Amazon time and time again because of their unwavering focus on attaining a near-impossible goal. If anything, these two books have left me in awe of the possibilities that can be accomplished through faith, stubbornness and hard work.

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