E-Mail: plourie@middlebury.edu




Lost Treasure of the

By Peter Lourie

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Review on Book Wink


The Inca crafted many of the world's most beautiful objects, including golden masks, plates, vases and jewelry. Most of that treasure has been lost to history, plundered by the conquistadors. But does more treasure exist. Tons of golden objects may be buried in the mountains of Ecuador. There is strong evidence that over four hundred years ago an Inca general hid the treasure-perhaps the largest in the world-from the gold-hungry Spaniards. Although expeditions over the centuries have failed to find the gold, adventurers continue to search the haunting, cloud-forested mountains of Ecuador. Peter Lourie's account of his own search for lost gold draws readers into the mysterious realm of the Inca. As the author follows his guides up into these eerie mountains to what seems like the top of the world, he discovers there is more than gold hidden in Ecuador. There is adventure-and history.



"Think of 750 tons of gold and silver--literally a king's ransom intended as barter for the life of a god-king. Think of an ancient treasure guide, and ponder whether it was intended as a true map or as cunning misdirection. Think of swirling fog, quicks and bogs, treacherous crevasses, and dense overgrowth that frustrate treasure hunters. This isn't R.L. Stevenson, but the real-life adventure of author Lourie, who followed the tantalizing path suggested by centuries of Inca and Spanish lore, a guide written by Spanish solder Valverde who claimed to know the location of the hidden cache, and an old Swiss treasure hunter who boasted that he simply needed "the Ecuadorian Army to help him dig the gold out from under tons of mud." Lourie recounts how he employed the services of three seasoned guides to lead him high into the Andes; plagued by mosquitoes, biting ants, and doubts concerning the reliability of Valverde's directions, he finally succumbed to altitude sickness and had to descend without discovering a glimmer of the gold. But he did return with a ripping good yarn to tell (in which he portrays himself as part heroic adventurer, part possible dupe, and part outlander who's clearly not fit for the rigors of mountaineering) and some breathtaking photographs of the mist-shrouded volcanic peaks. This should be a hot pick for armchair travelers, and it could make a terrific tie-in for a unit on Amerindian culture."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 1999

"Lourie has taken his readers along on his water journeys up the Amazon, down the Hudson, along the Yukon and the Rio Grande, and through the Erie Canal and that "river of grass," the Everglades. Here, in a decided change, he relates how years ago he was infected with a serious case of gold fever. Lured by legends surrounding a portion of Atahualpa's ransom spirited away from the gold-greedy Spaniards, Lourie, in company with a local crew, entered the remote, rugged Llanganati Mountains of Peru--a craggy wilderness covered with thick cloud forest, quaking bogs, and treacherous fogs, where altitude sickness sapped his energy. Needless to say, the rumored 750 tons of worked gold still lies (if it truly exists) concealed in the Llanganatis. A revisit to the locale years later prompted this fascinating book, an Indiana Jones-mix of history, lost treasure, and visions of wealth. The readable text is accompanied by color photos on almost every page. Team this with Tim Wood's pictorial The Incas (Viking, 1996) and Johan Reinhard's remarkable Discovering the Inca Ice Maiden (National Geographic, 1998) for a marvelous look at a vanished civilization.

School Library Journal , November 1999
Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

"Armchair adventurers with a taste for gold will be quickly drawn into a modern-day search for hidden treasure. Double-crossed by Pizarro after he murdered their king, the Incas hid an estimated 750 tons of gold high in the Llanganati mountains of Ecuador. Armed with the deathbed testimony of a sixteenth-century Spaniard who claims to have seen the gold, Lourie and three guides set off to find it. The description of the difficult terrain, complete with photos, is evocative. Dense jungle opens onto a boggy desert, the air is desperately thin, and there's disorienting fog, which one man calls "liquid sunshine." Lourie never finds any gold, but he considers himself just as rich for the experience: "I knew I was in the presence of the ancient Incas. Indeed, I had been given a gift greater than gold." Readers may not agree; they'd probably rather see the loot. Still, Lourie's tale is guaranteed to generate interest in the still-unsolved mystery, and it offers teachers the chance to connect an ancient culture to our own."

Booklist , October 15, 1999
Randy Meyer

"Once again, Lourie (Rio Grande, etc.) will fire readers' imaginations with his search for lost Inca gold, on a trek through the high mountains of Ecuador. As in his other adventures, Lourie skillfully links history with his real-life quest; so powerful is his narrative style that readers will fully expect him, toting a 16th-century treasure map, to uncover the 750 tons of Inca gold, ransom for the Inca king hidden somewhere on the volcano "Beautiful Mountain." Despite a great effort, Lourie does not find the treasure, but few reading this account will doubt it exists. He concludes: "I picture myself traipsing through the beard of the world to the treasure mountains, to that mysterious land of the Inca where the great treasure of the Sun King lies buried still." He thoughtfully includes the treasure map he followed so that would-be adventurers can attempt their own hunt. Full-color photographs of Inca gold, period illustrations, and contemporary photographs of Lourie and his companions enhance the title throughout. (glossary, index)"

Kirkus Reviews , October 15, 1999

"Using his signature photo-essay style of writing, Lourie embarks on a journey like no other as he takes his readers into high adventure, this time 14,000 feet high into the mountains of Ecuador in search of Inca gold. In six highly readable chapters, Lourie combines history with adventure and first-person account as he draws readers into one of the most fascinating mysteries of all time. He begins with a verbal as well as visual description of the terrain and includes colorful graphic maps that situate the geography in physical and historical terms. Chapter Two is the historical background of the Inca Empire, in the midst of civil war as two brothers, Huascar and Atahualpa (known as the Sun King), vie for the throne. Readers are here introduced to the cunning and ruthlessness of Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador whose insatiable greed caused the Incas led by Ruminahui, Atahualpa's general, to transport the gold to safekeeping on learning of his leader's fate. Ruminahui hid the gold high in the Llaganati Mountains rather than turn it over to the greedy Spaniards. Lourie introduces us to the notorious twentieth-century treasure hunter Eugene Brunner, a man consumed by a passion for solving one of the greatest mysteries of the world. Taking Brunner's advice, lessons, and maps, Lourie embarks on the dangerous journey. Aided by three wise and able-bodied guides, Segundo, Juan, and Washington, Lourie experiences the excitement, mystery, and dangers of the difficult exploration. Yet while unable to locate the gold, Lourie is satisfied to have had the opportunity to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. In the words of his trusted guide Segundo, "You have made the journey. You have your gold." Readers taken by Lourie's passion for adventure and discovery may well discover their own passion, not to be mistaken for 'fool's gold.'"

Multicultural Review, June 2000
Oralia Garza de Cortes

VOYA 's (Voice of Youth Advocates) Nonfiction Honor List - 2000
Not Just for Children Anymore! Catalog - 2000

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