Any young history student can tell you the story of the Incas.
Bedazzled by stories of cities built of stone and overflowing with
gold, children dream of hidden treasures in South America. Tales of
the conquistadors --- the culture they conquered and the riches
they took --- are told throughout the world, inspiring young men
and women to leave their homes and venture into the South American
mountains. British explorer and documentary filmmaker Hugh Thomson
was one of those adventurers.
Lured to Peru by the story of Llactapata, a ruin discovered by
noted explorer Hiram Bingham but lost again beneath the vines and
trees of Peru's jungle, Thomson and his team embarked upon a
journey to rediscover the missing ruin. Accompanied by local
guides, Thomson hiked the Inca trail through the Andean Mountains
to his destination --- encountering entertaining locals,
interesting cuisine, swarms of gnats and the occasional snake.
Nearly twenty years after his first excursion, Thomson would return
to Peru to resume his studies of the Inca ruins.
THE WHITE ROCK is not only the story of Thomson's explorations, but
also the history of the Inca culture and the archaeologists and
explorers who have recorded it. Thomson never hesitates to give
credit where it is due, a notable contrast to the often overblown
egos of explorers. True to documentarian form, Thomson offers an
unbiased, honest account of his travels in Peru, highlighting
various aspects of its culture, arts and inhabitants. He also
points out what he believes are discrepancies in the historical
chronicle of the Incas and offers plausible alternatives. A
combination of a history text and travel memoir, THE WHITE ROCK
offers the reader much more than other books in either of these
genres. Thomson's balance of humor and scholarship makes for an
enjoyable reading experience, and the forty-five black and white
photographs beautifully illustrate the mystical draw of the
Reviewed by Melissa Brown on January 24, 2011