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The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland

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3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  375 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
With the backdrop of the ever-intriguing Andes mountains,The White Rock, Hugh Thomson’s intoxicating history of the Inca people and their heartland, is a thrilling mix of information and adventure. The author, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and explorer, expertly weaves accounts of his own discoveries and brushes with danger with the history of those who preceded him—i ...more
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published January 6th 2003 by The Overlook Press (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,112)
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Paul
Hugh Thomson first went to Peruvian Andes at the age of 22. He was seeking a ruin that had been discovered a while ago, before being lost to time again. As a fresh faced youth, he found the Inca people and the places he visited compelling, confusing but most of all intoxicating. Walking in the footsteps of the great explorers, such as Bingham, who discovered Machu Picchu and Chambi a famous South American photographer, he travels across plains, over mountains and hacks through jungles in search ...more
Stephanie
A book of the lure of the unknown, the fabled, the view over the next horizon. In this autobiographical book, Hugh Thomson leaps from a life as a undirected youth in London, to the wildest of ideas, to go exploring in Peru in the hopes of finding lost cities rumored in the accounts of the conquistadors.

This true tale could have been a story of disastrous failures; and certainly there are hardships along the way, but there are amazing successes, too. Since I have traveled in this region, the boo
...more
Felicity
Oct 07, 2008 Felicity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Felicity by: Powell's sale table
A well-crafted hybrid of memoir, travel book and history. It begins with Thomson's quixotic decision as a 21-year-old, untrained, to go to Peru and re-find an Inca ruin that had been discovered, then lost again. In the decades since, he's become a more seasoned explorer and a documentary filmmaker, and his love for the mountainous areas of Peru is a constant.

Interwoven with his descriptions of the beautiful, punishing terrain and the abandoned complexes of the Inca are anecdotes of the bizarre c
...more
Jim
May 16, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-guides, peru
Hugh Thomson is a man of many parts: filmmaker, explorer, writer, blogger, tour guide ... the list goes on. He also happens to be the author of The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland, one of the best books I have read about visiting little-known Inca sites in that vast, little-known area northwest of Cuzco.

The book falls neatly into two parts. The first part covers his visits in the early 1980s, when the Sendero Luminoso terrorist movement was casting a pall over the mountainous p
...more
Justin Meek
Aug 17, 2007 Justin Meek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adventurers and anthropologists
A modern day account of exploring Manchu Picchu in the Andes and exposition of the fascinating tale of the Incas when the Spanish invaded.
Nd
Dec 03, 2015 Nd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hugh Thompson's report of his exploration of the Inca "Heartland" is remarkable. He spent an inordinate amount of time trekking through Peru, a bit of the rainforest, but especially the Andes mountains in Peru and its surrounding countries. During his expeditions, he was getting to know the people who lived there and learning the distinct differences among the inhabitants as well as the numerable localities. All the while, in addition to talking to and quizzing the locals, he was doing the same ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-geography
Good story of modern-day explorers looking for Inca ruins in the mountains and jungles of Peru. A little too "New Journalism" touchy-feely and not enough straightforward writing knocks it down a peg from "What a classic!" status.

And I wish there were more pictures.

But it does stir that part of the imagination where there are places of the world not yet explored, or once explored but long-since lost, the sense of a very far-away place in time and space that where there could still exist El Dorad
...more
Tim Martin
Sep 22, 2015 Tim Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, history, reviewed
_The White Rock_ by Hugh Thomson is a fascinating, well-written account of both the author's travels to Inca sites in Peru and Bolivia and his efforts to address the big discrepancies between popular conceptions of the Incas and the actual evidence of what they were like, an effort complicated by the fact that the Incas left no written record and much of what know about them comes from the often biased accounts of Spanish conquistadors and from the supposition of archaeologists.

Though Thomson vi
...more
Steven
Sep 28, 2009 Steven rated it really liked it
This book combined so many interests of mine, I don't see how I couldn't have liked it. Exploration, maps, history, travel, mountains, archaeology, family trees -- all that was missing was polar exploration, but since much of it took place at chilly altitudes, I'm still a pretty happy reader.

Thomson masterfully interweaves his own personal experiences as an explorer with accounts of colleagues, historical information and cultural observances in a way that seems effortless. His sympathy with the
...more
Whitenoisemaker
Jun 27, 2008 Whitenoisemaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this one whilst kicking around Cusco, and recommend it very highly for anyone getting into the Andean portions of Peru.

Thomson vividly and good-humouredly describes the business of both his own exploration and that of others, simulaneously giving credit where it's due and puncturing a few legends - those created by explorers and archaeologists about the Incas, and, perhaps more amusingly, those created by explorers and archaeologists about themselves.

The book is a satisfying mix of ancien
...more
Lindsey
Jul 26, 2008 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My dad read this last summer when he was visiting Emily and recommended it to me. I've had it sitting on my shelf since then but wanted to save it for when we were actually in Peru; I'm glad I did. I know I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much out of the book without the context our trip provided because my background knowledge of the Inca empire had been limited to what little I remembered from high-school history classes. In fact, I had to reread the beginning of the book partway through our tr ...more
Serena
Oct 07, 2008 Serena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers, South Americano-philes
Recommended to Serena by: Dad
This book feeds my obsession of Peru and travel, and as far as travel books go, it's incredibly comprehensive! Most travel books are place-specific memoirs sprinkled with funny stories told via the author's particular humorist style (nothing wrong with that), but Thomson also includes a lot of history, sources, and differing views about native and modern culture that is still clearly being modified. Living history might be the best way to describe it; Thomson himself admitted that this particula ...more
Laura (booksnob)
Jul 14, 2015 Laura (booksnob) rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history, 2015
If you're traveling to Peru this book would make a good companion. I took it with me on my trip and learned a lot about the history, culture and geography of the Inca and Peru as we visited the historical sites within the book. There is a chapter on Machu Picchu and on Ollantaytambo and many more places. It was a interesting read and I will use a lot of the information I learned in my world history class this year.
Have a great trip.
Flora
Apr 25, 2011 Flora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book that I started but had to return to the library. I will get it and finish. Very exciting story of the further explorations of Incan ruins...post Hiram Bingham.

I just requested this one from the library to continue reading...

Back home with copy. Very good read especially after our trip to Peru. I would recommend it to anyone going to Machu Picchu. This will give you a better perspective on the importance of the Inca ruins and how many more ruins there are to explore. We only know abo
...more
Pete
Jun 27, 2008 Pete rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty fun stuff. Thomson is better when discussing, the Incan system of divide and conquer, first person accounts of the Conquest, and later explorers like Hiram Bingham. Not as sharp or entertaining when describing the kind of 'had to be there' experiences that independent travelers so often encounter. Wow, you smoked weed in the Amazon and saw crazy stuff! Some of those tales belong solely in one's own journal. He also possesses the annoying trait of looking down his nose at people who can't ...more
Allen
Jul 19, 2008 Allen rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, memoir
I liked this book quite a bit, but I had to fight some feelings of envy while reading it. The author, a young man in the early 1980s, decided to go looking for a lost Inca city. He and two friends managed to get a little bit of funding from donors and take off for Peru. They actually did rediscover an Inca city that Hiram Bingham had seen, but failed to document carefully.

The book recounts the authors' travels in pre- Sendero Luminoso Peru, and one last expedition after the guerrilla movement h
...more
Carol
Jan 17, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


Found this very interesting as I had just been to Peru and am fascinated by the history and the Incas. Well written and very readable. Don't think I have remembered very much about it but I do remember being engrossed.
Evana Stanonik
Excellent backgrounds on the Incan empire along with some good laughs.
Katy
I read this for #10 of #26bookswithbringingupburns - 'a book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit'
Barney
part travelogue, part history, and peppered with personal anecdotes. articulates the heady rush of exploration and discovery, breathes life into the rise and fall of the inca empire (and what happened after), and chronicles the many explorers who found their way into the jungles and mountains to 'discover' some of the last remnants of a truly astonishing civilisation (as well as those who didn't come back). in essence, it's incredibly sad, but it refuses to romanticise either the inca or the con ...more
Chroniclesoftania
Apr 25, 2014 Chroniclesoftania rated it really liked it
A fascinating exploration into the Inca world. This book told me far more than any Peru guidebook. At times it was hilarious as the author mentions challenges on the journey encountering snakes and mosquitoes, tensions between explorers and archeologists, companions not bringing enough food or first aid, stubborn mules and locals insisting on listening to a certain type of music on the radio while trekking and of course plenty of dehydrated food all round!
Gavin
Apr 05, 2008 Gavin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Macchu Picchu (or alternate transliteration of your choice) in Peru is the subject of this book. Its history, discovery by Spaniards, loss and rediscovery in the early twentieth century. This is a great book, full of interesting details about Peruvian history. The author travelled around various sights in Peru on the trail of the Aztecs, the rediscoverers of the site and the conquistadors.

An excellent read and very worthwhile travel writing.
Eduardo
Aug 10, 2011 Eduardo rated it it was amazing
This travelogue mixes the hilarious mishaps of an exuberant 21-year-old backpacker with the erudition of a long-time explorer of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations. The story of the young, improbable explorer is told 20 years later by the mature, knowledgeable and engaging man he has become. Thomson packs a lot of history, archaeology and insight into a very light read. An excellent book; the best I've read in a long while.
MikeFromQueens
Dec 17, 2010 MikeFromQueens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent interleaving of various epocs and events of Peru and the Incan empire. I learned a good deal about the ancient culture, and how in the modern world the lost cities of the Inca were found, and then lost again. More than a memoir, the author explained every place he set foot in from the pre-history to the moment his machette re-located the place. I think I will re-read this book!
Judy
May 31, 2008 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers
Not a book I would typically read, but it was recommended to me by the travel agent who is arranging our trip to Peru later this year. It is a very readable account of a young man's journey through the heartland of the Incas, and gives good insight into the culture and history. It's definitely not for everyone, but if you're planning to tour Machu Picchu, it's great preparation for the trip.
Marti J
Jan 31, 2014 Marti J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it. Although it did make me more than a little cynical (and critical) of the inability of Machu Pichu guides to use the phrase "we don't know." At one point at Machu Pichu I could hear four different guides, and each of them had a different explanation/story about the site. Creative, but after reading The White Rock, the guides' inventions were clearly fiction.
Michel
Oct 05, 2009 Michel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A definite must read for anyone traveling to (or who has already traveled to) the Andean region of Peru, and/or interested in Inca history. I learned so much yet it was written well enough to be pleasurable and not just educational. It's amazing how much misinformation there is out there on the Incas and Machu Picchu and I thought this book did a great job clarifying that.
John
Apr 28, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting story of an amateur explorer who is told by a drunk to get off his arse and go do what he dreams of. Makes me laugh how we get all excited about finding lost cities when they are only lost to us. The locals know where they are it is just that they are no big deal. Tells of Machu Picchu counterpart across the valley. Interesting South American history.
Megan Pursell
Oct 14, 2007 Megan Pursell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelers, those interested in Inca lore
I am an avid foreign traveler and this book opened up a new view of Peru and the Inca lands. I'm very interested in archeology so the combination of off-the-beaten track exploration and a good review of the fall of the Inca empire were just the ticket for me. I was inspired by this book and intend to visit some new places when we finally make it to Peru.
Kat
Apr 08, 2009 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Getting ready for travels and reading about the various Incan ruins in Peru. This guy re-discovered one of them for the Western world. I'm learning a lot about the geography and history of the region, but I do wish it weren't written in such a Euro-centric manner. I guess everyone has to write from their own perspective though...
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64127
Hugh Thomson believes strongly that the world is not as explored as we like to suppose.

He writes about the wilder corners of the planet, from the edges of Peru to the Himalayas, looking for Inca ruins and lost cultures. Geographical commented that 'He is a writer who explores and not an explorer who writes.'

In 2012 Random House published 'The Green Road into the Trees: An Exploration of England',
...more
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