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Published: January 27th 2016
FACES OF PERU...Fawcett Exploration...In search of Lost Cities.
When I was about 10 or 11, I read a picture book about a guy named Percy Fawcett who was the first man to survey the border between Peru, Brazil & Bolivia.
Not like my heroes...Superman, the Phantom, the Justice League, Lion & Eagle magazines, Shintaro & the Ninjas on TV.
He was real.
A 20th century man.
Yet his adventures were the yeast of courage, determination and adventure into uncharted lands.
No idea as a child that this would lead to my obsession with adventure...exploration...and travel.
Later in life I read the unabridged version collated from his diaries by his son.
My real life hero...Percy Fawcett...whose story ultimately led me to Peru...following a childhood dream.
The dream was to search for lost cities...and to ultimately discover one.
L.H. Fawcett D.S.O., F.R.G.S.
Lt Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett was born in England in 1867.
At age 19 he was commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery and sent to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he met Nina, the daughter of a Ceylon District Judge, who he married in 1901.
They had two sons, Jack and Brian.
Percy joined the Royal Geographical Society's course in Boundary Survey in the hope of work in Africa.
In 1906 he was invited to survey the border between Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, which was relatively unknown territory covered by Amazon jungle.
He remained in the employ of the Bolivian government until 1911.
He then continued explorations on his own account searching for lost cities and civilisations.
His explorations were interrupted by WWI (1914-1918).
He had seven expeditions between 1906 and 1924 in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru and was decorated by the Royal Geographical Society in 1916.
He was friends with H. Rider Haggard who wrote "King Solomon's Mines" and Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the "Sherlock Holmes" detective stories.
Arthur Conan Doyle's book "Lost Worlds" is reportedly based on the adventures of Percy Harrison Fawcett.
In 1925 with his elder son Jack and Jack's friend Ralph Rimmel, Percy entered the Matto Grosso of Brazil searching for a lost city he called "Z".
They never returned.
Numerous expeditions went into the jungle to find them.
There were reported sightings of a wild
white man living with tribes, reports of where he'd last been seen, rumours aplenty.
Fortunately, Percy had kept meticulous diaries.
His younger son Brian mounted expeditions to find his father, brother & friend and arranged his father's manuscripts, letters, log-books and records for publishing.
Before Brian's book "Exploration Fawcett" was published, a report came from Brazil in 1952 of the finding of human bones believed to be his father's.
Following Brian's visit to Brazil, examination of the bones and interviews with indian tribes, it was determined to be a hoax, possibly due to the reward of GBP5,000 on offer.
But it was what prompted Percy's expeditions in the first place, that intrigued this then young reader.
Stories of lost cities, civilisations and abundant treasure waiting in the jungle to be found.
Particularly "Z", that his evidence indicated had been found in about 1753, then lost...of which Percy Fawcett determined be re-found.
Then in my early 20s, when I read the unabridged version of Exploration Fawcett, the reality of what Percy had to endure to pursue his dreams shocked me.
Shocked me so much, that it was many years before I took
up my own challenge.
Let Percy tell the story somewhat abbreviated by me.
The Lost Mines of Muribeca
In 1492 Columbus sailed west into the Atlantic and discovered the New World, later known as the Americas.
Haven't you heard of Terra Nullius
So what if it's inhabited they said...nobody's claimed it have they?
So started a feeding frenzy like sharks...or like a pack of dogs on heat.
The Europeans set sail for a piece of this New World...and the prize was called treasure.
24 years after Columbus, a Portuguese mariner, Diego Alvares landed in what is now Bahia, Brazil, in a land of cannibals.
He married an indian girl, Paraguassu, the Pocohontas of South America.
Her sister married Diego's friend and they had a child called Muribeca.
Muribeca discovered many mines of "silver, gold and precious stones which were worked by the skilful Tapuya tribes into so wonderful a treasure that the early European colonists were filled with envy."
Muribeca had a son Roberto Dias, who offered the King of Portugal Dom Pedro II the secret of the silver mines if he
was bestowed the title of Marquis.
The old king agreed but issued a patent of the mines for himself and for Roberto to be promoted to Captain.
When Roberto found out he'd been tricked, he refused to disclose the whereabouts of the mines and was imprisoned.
Ultimately the secret died with him.
Indians under torture would not disclose it's location and countless expeditions failed.
Failure turned to frustration.
Frustration turned to myth.
Yet history is rife with those who believe the allure of treasure beckons.
The Stone Idol
This is the part I remember as a kid. Percy writes: "I have in my possession an image about ten inches high, carved from a piece of black basalt. It represents a figure with a plaque on it's chest inscribed with a number of characters, and above it's ankles a band similarly inscribed. It was given to me by Sir H. Rider Haggard, who obtained it from Brazil, and I firmly believe it came from one of the lost cities. There is a peculiar property to this stone image to be felt by all who hold
it in their hands. It is as though an electric current were flowing up one's arm, and so strong is it that some people have been forced to lay it down. Experts at the British Museum were unable to tell me anything about the idol's origin. I am quite sure it is not a fake as 14 of the 24 characters can be found on various pieces of ancient Brazilian pottery."
So Percy continued his research.
****** The Bandieras of 1743
Percy discovered some documents in Rio de Janeiro of a Portuguese adventurer who in 1743 ventured into the jungles of Brazil searching for the Lost Mines of Muribeca.
He was not named in the documents so Percy called him... "Francisco Raposo - I must identify him by some name - was not to be deterred by wild beasts, venomous snakes, savages and insects from attempting to enrich himself and his followers as the Spanish in Peru and Mexico had done two centuries before. They were a hardy lot, those old pioneers - superstitious, perhaps, but when gold called all obstacles were forgotten."
Tired of endless wanderings for ten
years they headed east again in 1753 towards the coast and came upon some jagged mountains. It had been raining and the setting sun glistened off the wet quartz such that he claimed the mountain was alight with flame and studded with gems. A rainbow formed on a crest of a ridge. "An omen" he cried, "See, we have found the treasure house of the great Muribeca."
They found no way up and by morning the crags looked black and menacing and enthusiasm waned.
Some wood-gathers chased a deer hoping for fresh meat and it disappeared up a crack through some rocks...a way up had been found.
The climb was difficult but when they stood above a wooded plain - "And there at their feet, about four miles away, was a huge city."
They crept down not knowing if it was inhabited by the hated Spaniards, or a city like the old Incan capital of Cusco, inhabited by a highly civilised race holding out against the Europeans, or maybe a stronghold of the mysterious Tapuyas.
But the city was empty...filled only by millions of bats...ruin everywhere...areas as if they had been swallowed up. "Huddled together like a flock of frightened sheep, the men proceeded down the street and came to a vast square. Here in the centre was a huge column of black stone, and upon it the effigy, in perfect preservation, of a man with one hand on his hip and the other pointing towards the north."
There were inscriptions on massive stones and the Portuguese recorded these in their documents and Percy's heart must have been racing.
Some were images also on his stone idol.
The 1753 document hints at the finding of treasure but no details are given.
The men pictured themselves as rich men but after months of trekking returned to Bahia and gave the document to the Viceroy who did nothing.
Raposo was never heard of again.
The document remained pigeon-holed in Rio for about a century when the State government found it and sent a young priest to investigate.
He found nothing and the document gathered dust.
As Percy puts it: "It was difficult for an administration steeped in the narrow bigotry of an all-powerful Church to give much credence to such a thing as an old
civilisation. Egypt in those days was still a mystery, and the ecclesiastical spirit which wilfully destroyed the priceless records of Peru and Mexico was rife as ever."
****** Before the Europeans
Percy writes of the story of South America before the arrival of the Europeans "inferred from the archaeological remains and geological changes - and with reservations, from the traditions of the indigenous peoples."
The effect of volcanoes, tidal waves, earthquakes, of marine fossils at high altitude, the Altiplano once the bed of a lake.
Of the draining and relocation of Lake Titicaca consuming the ancient civilisation of Tiahuanaco, the remains of which can be found below the present level of the lake.
Of 67 species of plants common to New Zealand, Tasmania and South America.
The travels of the Toltecs preceding the Aztecs in Mexico, the Muyscas and Purvays who lived 2,000 years in Columbia and Equador.
He writes of the blue eyed, copper haired Toltecs who migrated south.
Of the Maxubis whom some had blue eyes and auburn hair, yet others are copper coloured. "They constructed great cities and huge temples to the sun, they used
papyrus and metal instruments."
He writes of evidence of the Chinese in communication with South America...Chinese characters of sun, eye and city on ancient Mayan structures.
Of "a great cataclysm preserved in the traditions of all it's people from the indians of British Colombia to Terra del Fuegans."
Of the Tupi from Polynesia that included the Antis from whom the Andes was named, who landed in Chile and spread their tattoo culture throughout the continent.
He wrote of the Incas. We know what happened to them. The king killed by Pizzarro by trickery and gold, gold, gold taken for Spain.
Of inter-tribal warfare of the Tupis with the Portuguese to the limit of the Inca in the West...the Caribs in the North with the Spanish...and the Tapuyas with the French in the East.
Of Puno in Peru that was as rich in silver as Potosi...of the City of the Caesars in Chile with streets paved in silver and roofs with gold...of the golden Incan city of Cusco the treasures of which were reportedly moved before the Spanish conquest..of Sacsahuaman in Peru...of a lost city he had actually visited.
And then of course there
was El Dorado.
Wow...I didn't know Sir Walter Raleigh from England visited the Orinoco River in Brazil in search of El Dorado.
****** In search of "Z"
But Percy dreamed of the city found by Raposo in 1753...of the stone idol that tingled his arm to hold.
Of the fabled city he wrote, "I call it "Z" for the sake of convenience."
He believed he had worked out it's coordinates.
While only two of his previous companions Manley and Costin he regarded as strong enough to accompany him, one had died and the other had married, he believed his son Jack and Jack's friend Raleigh Rimell could fill the breach.
May 20, 1925 Jack writes, "Raleigh's other foot is swollen. He rubbed it or scratched it one morning, and in the afternoon when he took his sock off to bathe it skin came off with it, leaving a raw place. Now it has started to swell - and he has a raw place on his arm too. What will happen when we really meet insects I do not know! There will be plenty of walking in
about a week, and I hope his feet will stand it. Daddy was saying today that the only ones he has had with him who were absolutely fit all through were Costin and Manley. Both of us are feeling damn good. Next time I write will possibly be from Para - or "Z" maybe!" May 19, 1925 Percy writes, "The attempt to write is fraught with much difficulty owing to the legion of flies that pester one from dawn till dusk - and sometimes all through the night! The worst are the tiny ones smaller than a pinhead, almost invisible, but stinging like a mosquito. Clouds of them are always present. Millions of bees add to the plague, and other bugs galore. The stinging horrors get all over one's hands, and madden. Even the head nets won't keep them out.As for mosquito nets, the pests fly through them. We hope to get through this region in a few days...we go on with eight animals -three saddle mules, four cargo mules, and a leading animal that keeps them together. Jack is well and fit, getting stronger by the day even though he suffers
a bit from the insects. I myself am bitten or stung by ticks...all over the body. Raleigh I am anxious about. He still has one leg in a bandage - but won't go back. So far we have plenty of food and no need to walk, but I am not sure how long this will last. There may be so little for the animals to eat. I cannot hope to stand up to this journey better than Jack or Raleigh, but I had to do it. Years tell, in the spite of enthusiasm."
He finishes the letter with the words, "You need have no fear of any failure...."
Brian concludes the first Epilogue to Exploration Fawcett with the words, "These last words he wrote to my mother come to me like an echo across the twenty six years that have elapsed since then. "You need have no fear of any failure...." "
And as Denise and I travel...on paths less traveled...embracing our love of travel...of music...of each other,
We are buoyed by Percy's last words...yep...they keep us going:
"You need have no fear of any failure...."
We hear you.
And we've discovered something that will make you proud.
Yep...we have discovered something.
Relax & Enjoy,
Dancing Dave All quotations herein are from the book "Exploration Fawcett" by Brian Fawcett
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