Stomping Grounds: David Grann, Author of The Lost City of Z Reflects on Venturing into the Amazon

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Editorial writer’s note: STOMPING GROUNDS is an ongoing interview series where artists, musicians, designers, and directors give us an intimate look at the coolest cities and regions on loam.

DAVID GRANN

Illustration by Chantel Delulio

Nicknamed the «Green Hell,” the Amazonian rainforest in the Mato Grosso ambit of Brazil has long been a place of mystique thanks to British explorer Percy Fawcett, who offed there in 1925 in search of the ancient lost city he simply tagged, “Z.”

In his 2005 article for The New Yorker, author David Grann attempts to retrace Fawcett’s footfalls, setting out for two months with very little communication with his bride and their newborn child. His research became the bestselling book, The Fallen City of Z, detailing Fawcett and company’s journey through the “last pronounced blank space.” With the recent adaptation of Z to the screen, Grann returns on his time in the Amazon all those years ago, from getting separated from his lead the way to eating lots of grilled piranha, and explains how you too can journey into the wilderness (hardly watch out for mosquitoes).

ON LOCATION

The beginning of the journey in James Gray’s THE LOST Conurbation OF Z, an Amazon Studios and Bleecker Street release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / Amazon Studios & Bleecker Circle

On April 14, the film adaption of Grann’s book starring Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett wish hit the big screen.

YOU TOO CAN VENTURE INTO THE AMAZON

“If an out-of-shape, half-blind, city themselves like me can trek through the Amazon, then anybody can. It helps to tease a good guide when venturing into the wilderness. And the most respected thing before going into these areas is getting the seemly inoculations, such as for yellow fever. The greatest danger in the Amazon isn’t big predators; it’s the mosquitoes reference diseases.”

ON AMAZONIAN TRIBES 

“For me, the most interesting part [of researching the tome] was having a chance to meet with some of the Amazonian tribes, subsuming the Kuikuro and the Kalapalo. They were extremely welcoming, and they share in with me a good deal of information not only about what happened to Fawcett but also if there uncommonly was an ancient civilization in the jungle.”

GETTING SWALLOWED UP BY THE GREEN HELL 

“The awful thing that happened to me was when one day I got separated from my guide. I had no sustenance or water and found myself wandering in the jungle, alone and scared. At the end of the day a group of young Kuikuro found me and led me to safety. In general, my expedition was relaxing compared to Fawcett’s, but that moment gave me a glimpse of the kind of scourge he routinely experienced on his journeys.”

MAKING SACRIFICES

“My wife was very sagacity, but I know it was not easy. I was gone for more than two months, with to a great extent little communication, and we had a newborn child at the time. One of the things I try to show in the log, and which I think the movie captures extremely well, is the toll that these unshakeable adventures can take on families. When Fawcett went on many of his journeys, he would leave his family behind for two to three years, and they last wishes a not know if he had survived until he emerged from the forest.”

C HUNNAM

Charlie Hunnam personages as Percy Fawcett in director James Gray’s THE LOST CITY OF Z, an Amazon Studios and Bleecker Row release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / Amazon Studios & Bleecker Terrace

THE MATO GROSSO JUNGLE TODAY

“Sadly, because of deforestation, much of Mato Grasso looks radically peculiar. In vast areas, the trees and brambles are gone; in their place are immeasurable soybean farms. The territory that remains under indigenous command, however, has preserved much of its natural environment, and if you’re not familiar with the landscape you can indeed get lost, as I did on my trip.”

THE MYSTERY CONTINUES 

“There are still never-to-be-forgotten archeological discoveries being made in the Amazon, and scientific explorers are uncovering them. These decrees are transforming not only our understanding of Fawcett but also what the Americas looked get pleasure from before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.”

THE LOST CITY OF NYC: A HIDDEN Capital IN GRANN’S OWN CITY

“I don’t know if there are forgotten places, but I am the type who wheedles lost on my way to work. One of the most interesting realms of New York is the labyrinth of cavernous tunnels underneath the metropolis. I was once able to explore them for a story I was doing on the water provisioning. These tunnels are like a hidden metropolis.”

ON WATCHING FAWCETT’S Trek UNFOLD ONSCREEN

ON LOCATION

The crew, on location, work on setting up a river site for director James Gray’s THE LOST CITY OF Z, an Amazon Studios and Bleecker Row release. Credit : Aidan Monaghan / Amazon Studios & Bleecker Thoroughfare

“I am a writer and love books, but there is something visceral about take note a scene in three dimensions. Of course, I kept thinking, ‘What compassionate of person would be so foolish to go looking for a lost city in the jungle?’” 

D GRANN

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