Amid torrential downpours, flash floods, giant spiders, poisonous snakes hanging from the branches overhead, and a thick layer of nocturnal insects carpeting the jungle floor, a group of explorers set out into one of the last truly unexplored places left on this earth.
Armed with nothing more than legends and, of course, the latest technology has to offer, with limited supplies, and ill-equipped for the brutal and venomous jungle that has overtaken and hidden the region from human exploration for centuries, the group lands near the shores of a twisting and meandering river tributary.
They step off and the helo departs, leaving them and their gear in one of the most isolated areas of Honduras. And, as they venture through the meadow and head into the darkness under the dense canopy, with a symphony of insects in their ears, and the cacophony of screeching from the families of monkeys nestled high in the trees, there’s something foreboding and ominous about their journey.
The unmistakable feeling of being watched sends tendrils of goosebumps up their spines.
I wake with a start, a random tree branch up above on the ridge coming down with a crash after a blustering wind gust barrels up the narrow draw from the lake below.
I look out over the glistening water as I lay back in my hammock, readjusting myself, trying to relax. It was just a dream – though, one of many similar dreams I’ve been having lately – after finishing Douglas Preston’s book, The Lost City of the Monkey God.
I try to catch my breath as I remember them setting up their camp, utilizing hammocks much like the one I’m hanging in right now. Granted, there are no spiders to worry about, no deadly snakes to content with here, in my own little Eden.
But, as they set up their camp – with hammocks and tents, mosquito netting and rain flies, starting a large campfire to cook with and to pass the evening in the darkness of the jungle – I’m transported back to my childhood, reading stories of great adventurers who discovered lost cities and whole civilizations etched out within the heart of a ferocious infernal region.
I’m fortunate that I don’t have jaguars wandering through my camp at night. I do have bears and cougars, though in my area they are typically terrified of humans and steer clear.
I listen intently, the now gentle breeze buffeting the stand of old Douglas Fir and wild undergrowth I’m nestled in. My hammock is perched on a small knoll looking over the lake, the different shades of green, carpeting the ridges and valleys on the other side. I put the Monkey God book down and take a deep, cleansing breath, then let out a long, disenchanted sigh.
I can’t help but be thankful for so many things. My life. My safety. My own personal paradise, void of such dreadfulness that must have befallen those inhabitants of the City of the Monkey God so many years ago.
The sun on the westward ridge, dangles effortlessly in the sky, as it blasts a final, brilliant ray before sinking down behind the horizon, so quickly plunging my perfect paradise into the chilling shadows of dusk.
The dark quickly strangles the forest, wrestling away the day as night takes hold, the last of the light choking and gasping until it, too, once more, dissipates like a ghost slinking back into the depths of the ancient waters below.
A shiver runs through me, riveting me to my feet, forcing me to snatch the sweatshirt hanging from my hammock ridge line. I make quick work of pulling it on and detaching the beners that hold the hammock to each tree.
I stuff the parachute material into my day pack and zip it up, sling a strap over one shoulder.
With one last, hesitant look out over the now dark waters, I can see the small multitude of ripples from the wind have now been overtaken by a still perfect glassy sheen.
How many centuries ago had this same land been inhabited by another people – native to both the land and the spirits that roamed these valleys and dark forests, with a supernatural mist that hung low, as the siren screeches of an elk herd in the distance could be heard as they settled in for the night in the neighboring pristine meadow.
Were these strange people – like those of the Lost City – at all like me?
Did they have desires and dreams and goals and a free society that allowed them to entertain those pursuits?
Or, were they a predominately caste system, the ruling socio-political party rising to the top while the majority of society was enslaved to fulfill the whims of the elite?
I turn and head east, back down the trail toward my property, following along through dense trees, a sea of endless giant ferns, the trail making its way along the hillside, slowly working around the corner, toward the dock and camp.
I can’t help but think of the Monkey God people, who must have likewise been religious – superstitious even.
To have sought favor from the gods of their land, of their culture, carved out of the harshness of the land, the wilds of the jungle.
It is riding on a razor’s edge, to meddle with the supernatural, seeking approval from their half monkey, half man god by way of ritual sacrifices and multitude of offerings.
What it must have been like to live there.
And, for it, so abruptly, to have come to an end.
As the explorers reached the valley, the first thing they found was a cache of offerings, now half buried in dirt, covered and concealed under dense, wiry tangles of vines and ferns and vegetation.
But the exquisite stone statues, idols, bowls and implements, all piled there in what must have been a last ditch effort to appease a God whose anger has been stirred.
Apparently, they did not succeed.
But, now, the remains of a vast and advanced society is unearthed, demarking what once was a lost society, once silent, hidden, yet now resurrected and alive, and speaking so loudly of its past.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for the backlash to begin.
Whether out of a great and encroaching delusion, or out of personal jealousy and self-interest, the detractors line up to blast the group and their discovery, ever whining from their ivory towers in perpetual search for cheese, accusing of cultural appropriation, of legitimized looting, of political agenda – finding everyone who doesn’t tow the party line guilty of some century’s old romanticized imperialism.
For a country floundering desperately to get an economic foothold, and a political system hell bent on carving out for themselves a namesake, no matter the cost, this discovery is a lifeline, a last hope.
Despite it all, the archaeological propaganda machine cannot deny the cold, hard reality: the Lost City of the Monkey God – the White City of Legend – for all its glory and splendor and myth and grand, exquisite beauty – it has been unearthed.
It has been found.
As I make my way back to my own camp, on land that once was possessed by a strange and peculiar people, now shrouded in only mystery, I can’t help but make the connection to the Monkey God society of Honduras.
These people, too, sought out the supernatural elements of nature, of the Earth Mother, attempting to explain the world around them through natural means. And, yet, they, too, were stricken from the earth so abruptly.
As if putting out an unwanted fire.
To quench an eternal flame.
To be betrayed by their own Spirit Kings.
Abandoned by their own….
Doug Preston has truly found a calling in the world of adventure, writing, and has also had to pay a steep price for it, too. Join in on this incredible adventure as he explores the depths and mystery and majesty of Honduras and the secrets it’s dense and terrifying jungles hold.
The Lost City of the Monkey God is an astounding monograph of a newly discovered ancient city in Honduras, often thought to be substance of myth and speculative legend. It is surely to be a page turner!
In the familiar style of real-to-life Indiana Jones, Doug takes you on the grandest of adventures you will not soon forget. He delivers a spine-tingling story of predator and prey, of conspiracy and ancient mystery, yet also records for posterity one of the greatest discoveries of our modern age.
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