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River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana's Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon

From the acclaimed author of Conquistador comes this thrilling account of one of history’s greatest adventures of discovery. With cinematic immediacy and meticulous attention to historical detail, here is the true story of a legendary sixteenth-century explorer and his death-defying navigation of the Amazon—river of darkness, pathway to gold.

In 1541, the brutal conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro and his well-born lieutenant Francisco Orellana set off from Quito in search of La Canela, South America’s rumored Land of Cinnamon, and the fabled El Dorado, “the golden man.” Driving an enormous retinue of mercenaries, enslaved natives, horses, hunting dogs, and other animals across the Andes, they watched their proud expedition begin to disintegrate even before they descended into the nightmarish jungle, following the course of a powerful river. Soon hopelessly lost in the swampy labyrinth, their numbers diminishing daily through disease, starvation, and Indian attacks, Pizarro and Orellana made a fateful decision to separate. While Pizarro eventually returned home barefoot and in rags, Orellana and fifty-seven men, in a few fragile craft, continued downriver into the unknown reaches of the mighty Amazon, serenaded by native war drums and the eerie cries of exotic predators. Theirs would be the greater glory.
 
Interweaving eyewitness accounts of the quest with newly uncovered details, Buddy Levy reconstructs the seminal journey that has electrified adventurers ever since, as Orellana became the first European to navigate and explore the entire length of the world’s largest river. Levy gives a long-overdue account of the native populations—some peaceful and welcoming, offering sustenance and life-saving guidance, others ferociously hostile, subjecting the invaders to gauntlets of unremitting attack and intimations of terrifying rituals. And here is the Amazon itself, a powerful presence whose every twist and turn held the promise of new wonders both natural and man-made, as well as the ever-present risk of death—a river that would hold Orellana in its irresistible embrace to the end of his life.

Overflowing with violence and beauty, nobility and tragedy, River of Darkness is both riveting history and a breathtaking adventure that will sweep readers along on an epic voyage unlike any other.

Buddy Levy is the author of the recent books No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon (with Erik Weihenmeyer), Geronimo: Leadership Strategies of an American Warrior (with Mike Leach), and River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon. His other books include Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs, which was a finalist for the 2009 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and nominated for the 2009 Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award and a 2009 PEN Center USA Award, American Legend: The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett, and Echoes on Rimrock: In Pursuit of the Chukar Partridge. His books have been published in six languages.

As a freelance journalist, he has covered adventure sports and lifestyle/travel subjects around the world, including several Eco-Challenges and other adventure expeditions in Argentina, Borneo, Europe, Greenland, Morocco, and the Philippines. His magazine articles and essays have appeared in Alaska Beyond, Backpacker, Big Sky Journal, Couloir, Discover, High Desert Journal, Poets & Writers, River Teeth, Ski, Trail Runner, Utne Reader, TV Guide, and VIA. He is clinical associate professor of English at Washington State University, and lives in northern Idaho.

ISBN: 9780553807509

ISBN-10: 9780553807509

Publisher: Bantam

Publication Date: 02/22/2011 - 12:00am

On Sale: 02/22/2011 - 12:00am

Pages: 352

Language: English

Categories

History / Latin America

History / Expeditions & Discoveries

History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)