Throughout the last week I’ve been on a quest following rabbit trails like an intrepid adventurer. Trawling through sources, hunting for names and locations, it was an unexpectedly exhilarating romp through a wealth of riches.
Recently, I unearthed my much-prized DVD boxset of The Mysterious Cities of Gold (based on Scott O’Dell‘s novel, The King’s Fifth), which happens to be my favourite ever cartoon. The blend of history, adventure, and an atmospheric soundtrack have stayed with me since first watching in the mid 80’s, as does the beautifully realised scenery which never fails to make me happy and in a creative mood.
Originally, the BBC cut out the mini documentaries at the end – presumably for the bits of mild nudity – which is a shame as we children watching could have been further inspired by the real history of the Conquistadors and the native peoples of South and Mesoamerica, their myths, beliefs, and culture.
Watching this again brought back many memories. The first, the excitement of picking up the DVDs in my mid-to-late 20’s and wondering if it would be as I remembered (it was and so much more). The surprise discovery and fascination of seeing those documentaries for the first time, which although looking very outdated, struck a chord and further encouraged me to fill out my knowledge of the subjects mentioned.
Most notably picking up copies of The Conquest of Mexico by Hugh Thomas, and Michael Wood’s Conquistadors, which I purchased after watching one episode of the BBC documentary. Upon learning there was a book I dropped the TV aspect entirely.
It was in Wood’s book that I recalled reading with fascination an account of Conquistadors struggling down the Amazon, eating boots to stave off hunger. whilst being attacked by natives etc. I had a real hankering to read the full account, but sadly I can’t just go to Waterstones at the moment to check for the details of this vaguely remembered document.
Going through numerous sources hunting for this elusive account, I found many names with rousing stories to tell, they weren’t the particular story I wanted but with names like The War of Quito, and The Travels of Pedro de Cieza de Leon. Hinting as they do of discovery, adventure, and undoubtedly plenty of ignorance on their part.
Finally, though I came across what I was Searching for in the form of a book by Jose Toribio Medina, and his The Discovery of the Amazon: According to the Account of Friar Gaspar de Carvajal and Other Documents
The excitement of hunting for something elusive, and the tantalising feeling of now having it within my grasp (when money permits) reminded me of another book about Spanish Conquistadors and hidden treasure Valverde’s Gold, which is another entertaining jaunt, full of misdirection, jealously guarded secrets, and the thirst for the hunt.