The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland
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The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland

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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  252 ratings  ·  48 reviews
More than twenty years ago, acclaimed documentary filmmaker, journalist, and explorer Hugh Thomson first set off into the Peruvian cloud forest, to find a ruin called Llactapata which, although it had been discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1912, had been "lost" again. Accompanied by two buddies from home and several native guides, Thomson "finds" Llactapata and, as with many...more
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published January 6th 2003 by Overlook Hardcover (first published 2001)
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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
Jim
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Steven
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
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
Felicity
Oct 07, 2008 Felicity rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Lindsey
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Flora
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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...
Barbara
I read this book a few years ago and liked it a lot, then found it again on my bookshelf right after returning from a hiking trip around Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Even more fun to read it after seeing some of the Andes and the fabulous Incan stone work everywhere. A great combination of adventure travel and anthropology.
Eric
A nice summary of Inca history as told through the explorers that have uncovered their past. Author does a great job of encapsulating the adventures of previous explorers over the past century. As told through the eyes of a 21 year old, the trek through Peru is filled with interesting anecdotes.
Elyssa Back
I picked up this book in Peru at the end of a short trip there. I knew nothing about it, but I was really impressed. It is a travelogue mixed with a well researched archeological picture of the Inca.

I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Peru, history or archeology.
Ells
Adventure in the heart of Peru in search of the Inca Road and ruins. Fascinating! History and current in Peru sprinkled in with the swings of the machete and chew of the coca leaves. Hugh Thomson has a great way of writing that keeps the pages turning briskly.
Ann
This book is an account of a young British explorer's treks through the Inca ruins in Peru. A fun read after my own recent trip to Peru, with great perspective on Incan mountain-worship and other early explorers in the country (e.g. Hiram Bingham).
Shane Cross
Great book. Inspired by his sense of adventure, and he weaves in peruvian history so perfectly it makes you feel like you are incan. You may become obsessed with trying to find a new Incan city after reading it, so beware.
linda
Such an amazing read about Thomson's explorations in South America. This book is great because he includes detail about the history of the Incas and the details of his explorations in tracing the foot steps of the Incas.
Erin
This book makes me want to hop on the first plane to Peru TODAY. A beautifully-written exploration of Inca culture that perfectly combines history with modern travel. Definitely making me re-think my 2010 travel plans.
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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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