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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of History eBook: River of Darkness|
|Release Date: 02-22-2011|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||River of Darkness|
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River of Darkness
The vast and rugged lands of extremadura, Francisco Orellana’s homeland in the kingdom of Castile, produced hard and unyielding men, men who learned the arts of warfare as boys, and who by their early teens could ride their Iberian mounts with panache and wield their Toledo swords with deadly efficiency. Theirs was a temperament forged by eight hundred years of conflict with the invading Moors. To this day, Extremadura is the least populated province in all of Spain, a haunting and landlocked place where seemingly endless tracts of rocky pastureland and burned-out bunchgrass are punctuated by scrubby stands of deep green encina oak. On elevated promontories, the only respite from the terminal vistas, perch the ruins of castles and ramparts and their crumbling keeps, and the granite remains of Roman arches and bridge columns. The panorama inspired dreams of far-off lands and a better life, as did the stories brought back to Iberia by explorers like Columbus, whose famous Carta of 1493 told of innumerable islands peopled by peaceful, naked inhabitants and flowing with spices and gold. The options for men without titles to rise beyond a hardscrabble existence herding swine or cattle were few. They could better their class status through marriage, though most herdsmen or peasants knew that their chances of courting and winning a lady of the elite were less than favorable.
The only other chance for fame, fortune, and titles was a triumphant military career, and this alternative lured many an Extremeño to the ships at Seville headed for the newfound world across the seas.
Such was the lure for young Francisco Orellana. Born in 1511 to a prominent Trujillo family...