Josh is in search of the fabled city of El Dorado. The search begins in Cusco, Peru, where he looks at the current cathedral which was built over the palace of Inca Wiracocha by the Spanish after their conquest. This cathedral is lined inside with gold. Then, Josh looks for the fabled city of Paiteti, which many feel is the lost city of El Dorado. Josh also take a trip into Lake Titicaca to look for lost relics of gold.
El Dorado: "When I was a kid, I watched this movie called 'Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold' starring Richard Chamberlain. It was based on the book by Sir Henry Rider Haggar and, as I recall, the movie really wasn't that good. And it was in AFRICA, not Peru, where Quatermain began his search. Nonetheless, images of this movie keep creeping into my head as I begin this expedition from Lake Titicaca to the highlands to the Amazon jungles of Peru in search of a different 'Lost City of Gold' that involves the Inca legend of Paititi."
Cusco: "Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire and the site of its enormous wealth. It's name comes from the Quechua word Qosqo, which means 'Vital Center' or 'Solar Plexus.' The town sits about 11,100 feet above sea level and is surrounded by twelve sacred guardian mountains called Apus. Cusco is considered by many to be the 'archaeological capital of South America' and it is by far my favorite city in Peru. Cusco has a special feeling similar to some of the other sacred cities and towns I've visited: Axum, Ethiopia; Jerusalem, Israel; and Karnak, Egypt. If you go to Peru, go to Cusco."
The Cathedral of Cusco: "This cathedral was built on top of the palace of Inca Wiracocha between 1560 and 1664 A.D. and, to help win over the Inca natives, the Spanish conquistadors covered the walls in gold, the Inca's sacred metal. It was an interesting ploy, and I'm amazed at just HOW MUCH gold & gold leaf there is on the walls as Peter takes me around. A lot... It is
truly a stunning place. It's also a great place for me to get a feel for the differences between the Spanish and the Inca perceptions of gold and how that manifested in their worlds. Very interesting..."
Paititi: "There are many, many legends around El Dorado, and they are not confined to simply Peru. Many South American jungles have been explored for a lost city of gold, and many great explorers have perished as a result, including Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who was killed by natives on his quest. But a few years ago, Italian archaeology professor Mario Polia discovered a document in the 'Peruvian History' section of the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in the Vatican. It is a copy of this manuscript which Greg Deyermenjian and I take a look at and which has created a new wave of searches for the legendary lost city of gold."
Lake Titicaca: "Lake Titicaca is considered a sacred lake, birthplace of the Inca sun god, Manco Capac, and his sister, Mama Ocllo, who rose from the waters and eventually founded Cusco as the capital of the Inca empire. Titicaca is also the highest navigable lake in the world, flowing across Peru and Bolivia. If you're wondering what 'navigable' means, I looked it up: it means that the lake connects two points of commerce (in this case, the countries Peru and Bolivia) and the body of water is affected by lunar tidal changes. Who knew?"
Diving Titicaca: "At 12,540 feet above sea level, it really is hard to breathe and within minutes I'm light-headed. Then dizzy. Then I have a splitting headache. Fortunately, a body will acclimatize if given enough time, and after two days of resting and giving my body a chance to make more red blood cells, I'm up for the challenge of diving at this altitude. Gustavo Villavicencio is one of the few men 'crazy' enough to dive in Titicaca. He used to be a commercial diver, and he may have more dives in Titicaca under his belt than anyone else alive—I'm not sure. But he's brought tanks with him for the adventure and off we go! How do I explain the cold...? Well, if there were ice cubes floating by me, I wouldn't be surprised. I've swam in many a cold mountain lake, but Titicaca takes the cake. Even in a 5 mm wetsuit with a hood, I almost couldn't breathe because of the cold. But cool frog, huh? We saw two or three."
Expedition Away!: "Returning to Cusco, Greg, Paulino and I set out for the highlands. As we pass through sacred valleys and see stone city after stone city, it becomes evident just how immense the Incan empire was. It stretched across what is now Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Huge! At Choquecancha, we pick up the llamas, who are going to help us trek in the highlands. Not sure if you're familiar with llamas, but it's great hanging with these guys. They make the funniest noises, kind of like a whining honk. In the highlands, we explore some great Inca and pre-Inca ruins and graveyards, but those shots didn't make it into the show...(so many adventures, so little time)."
River Away!: "Leaving the llamas behind, we begin what Greg says will be the more arduous part of the journey. To help us navigate the rivers and jungle, Darwin Moscoso is joining our expedition. I ask Darwin how he got such a cool name—turns out it was the name of the doctor who delivered him. So the four of us make our way along the Alto Madre de Dios River, pushing and pulling the pequepeque as needed. Peque-peque-peque-peque-peque-peque..."
Jungle Away!: "We all knew that at some point the river would get too shallow for navigating, but we honestly hoped we would get farther. Our concern is that visibility in the jungle is pretty limited, and we want the expedition to begin a bit closer to the actual search area and the Pyramids of Paratoari. But alas, we set off undaunted, intrepid explorers that we are."
Rainstorm Away!: "Nearing the Cloud Forest, the rain starts to fall. And it falls, and falls, and falls! I think jungle rains are great, but they're hell on navigating because visibility is so limited. And with each step deeper into the jungle, the undergrowth gets that much more crowded and slippery. Walking even a single mile becomes a chore, and the odds of us missing our site seem pretty high. There was a lot more to this expedition that didn't make it on TV, but it was the group consensus that it would be best to regroup and try another approach."
The Pyramids of Paratoari: "Time will tell if the pyramids are man-made or natural, and time will tell if Paititi and El Dorado are ever discovered. But every good adventure is more about the journey than the destination, and we had a great time trying. I told Greg that I'd love to go back to Peru for a second attempt when it's NOT the rainy season and we can move more easily through the forest. We'll see."