I was bitten by the travel bug. I was not bitten by the travel bug that causes maggots to hatch under your skin and pop their little maggot heads out as if to say hello and wish you well during your visit to their little unexplored corner of the world. I have to admit, however, that I did take guilty pleasure reading the tales of such encounters between man and insect, but I will come back to that.
When I was a young man a small film called Raiders of the Lost Ark came out and like a lot of young men at the time I dreamed of a day that I might take up my bullwhip and fedora and crisscross the globe in search of fame and glory. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that the world had pretty much already been thoroughly explored and would not be in need of my whip or fedora. This knowledge, however, did not dull my interest in exploration or the people who had bravely pitted themselves against nature and the unknown to illuminate the world and fill in some of the large blank spaces left on the map in the early 1900’s.
One day while listening to NPR an author on one of their shows drew my interest. I did not hear the name of the program as the noise my six year old son makes rises in direct proportion to the interest I have in what I am actually trying to listening to. The author’s name was David Grann and his book is called The Lost City of Z .
The Lost City of Z is about the explorer Col. Percy Fawcett and his obsession with the Amazon, which ultimately led to the disappearance of his son, his son’s best friend, and Col. Fawcett himself.
The author takes the reader along as he tries to unravel the mystery of the fate of the Fawcett party. He is no armchair detective and this is what immediately endeared me to the book. David Grann is determined to discover the fate of Col. Fawcett and is destined to head to the Amazon himself. He is no hardened explorer. He has, in fact, very little experience at all with the Amazon and this, in the end, makes him much more relatable to the reader.
The author embarks on a thorough investigation of the life and times of Col. Fawcett and gains access to maps and diaries that the family has held on to for generations and has never shared with anyone else. He slowly brings to light the obsession of Col. Fawcett to be the first to reveal to the world an advanced culture and lost city in the Amazon, the lost city of Z. The historical backdrop is expertly woven into the tale of the investigation as the fates are revealed of those who were foolish enough to enter the Amazon as rescue parties in the 1920’s, and even as late as 1996, to ascertain the final fate of the Fawcett expedition.
David Grann admits in his book that he was bitten by the “Fawcett bug” as were many others before him. In reading his book I was also bitten by the Fawcett bug and was glad that I was. Speaking of bugs, those pesky critters that hatch maggots under your skin—those were some of the kinder insects that vexed the intrepid explorers in The Lost City of Z . They are waiting within the pages to greet you and welcome you to their little unexplored corner of the world.