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on February 10, 2017
If you want a good book about the fabled Ciudad Blanca, read Douglas Preston's "The Lost City of the Monkey God." If you want a book about a whiny New Yorker who is woefully ill prepared for any sort of outdoor adventure and yet somehow thinks it's a good idea to "find himself" on a trek through the dense jungles of Mosquitia, then I guess Jungeland will do.

The book is broken down into very short chapter vignettes, alternating between Stewart's trip through the jungle and Theodore Morde's 1940 expedition in search of Ciudad Blanca. At first it's a contrivance that works well, but it quickly becomes annoying, mostly because Stewart neglects to add any real weight to his writing or research. In fact, Stewart fails to realize the biggest issue with Morde's "discovery" of Ciudad Blanca: it was all a farce. Morde and Brown established a gold panning operation on the river and never bothered looking for the famous lost city, and then he fabricated the entire thing on his return to the States, including falsifying his notebooks.

That alone wouldn't really be too much of a problem for Jungleland. Instead, what really kills the book is the fact that Stewart spends so much of it whining about how his feet hurt, how hot and sweaty he is, how exhausted he is, and how much he misses his family. I've been on long treks and travels overseas before, and I get all of that. But Stewart takes it to an entirely new level. I wonder if his companions, namely archeology Chris Begley, wished he had just drowned during one of their river crossings.

Stewart mentions in the book that he is used to dangerous situations as part of his job. Seeing how much he whined, worried, and complained the whole time, it makes me wonder if the most dangerous thing he's done was walk into a Harlem Starbucks.
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on July 16, 2014
I read The Lost City of Z a few months before I read Christopher S. Stewart’s Jungleland. I might have appreciated Stewart’s book more if I had read it first, but I don’t believe that doing so would have given me a better impression of Stewart as either an author or an adventurer. Percy Fawcett of Z was at home in the bush, but Stewart was no more at home in the bush than I would be.

According to the book’s jacket, Stewart is a writer and editor with the Wall Street Journal. He became interested in jungle exploring after reading the journal of an adventurer, explorer named Theodore “Ted” Morde, who explored the wilds of Honduras some 70 years earlier. Wikipedia describes Morde as, “ an adventurer, explorer, diplomat, spy, journalist, and television news producer best known for his claim of discovering the "Lost City of the Monkey God" Stewart becomes obsessed with finding the “Lost City of the Monkey God” and so he enlists an older man of some experience in the bush named Chris Begley to assist him in his journey. Begley is described as, “a real-life Indiana Jones.” The book is written in chapters that alternate between Stewart’s story and excerpts from Morde’s journal.

Stewart leaves his wife and young daughter at home in New York, and he and Begley go to Honduras to begin their journey. Descriptions of life in the Honduras jungle border on the bizarre. In one segment, the duo and some local helpers are moving through the wilderness jungle, enduring insect bites, avoiding poisonous snakes and jaguars, when a young native girl, who is carrying a baby, and who is dressed like any young woman in any city in America, and holding an umbrella as protection from the sun, comes down a path toward them. Her picture in the book shows that she is smiling at the weary travelers. Another segment depicts the group as enduring hardships of jungle life, and they finally reach a village, where they listen to a radio to receive the latest news.

When Stewart and Begley reach what they assume is the Lost City, one wonders why they went to so much trouble. Stewart would have had a better book if he had just printed Morde’s journal.
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on August 18, 2017
This is an ok read but, in the end, disappointing. The life of spy and adventurer Theodore Morde is in itself worth a book and the trek that Stewart takes into Mosquitia (in Morde's footsteps...kinda) should have been exciting. But the way the book is organized (toggling between chapters on Morde and Stewart's own trek) makes it all a bit disjointed. AND, in spite of sickness, hunger, snakes, mosquitoes, and pirates (yes, pirates), Stewart makes his trek surprisingly mundane. The conclusion is also a bit of a letdown, although its mystical punchline could have been profound. [One final note: reading this at a time when the pundits are going crazy about the lack of democracy in Venezuela is interesting. Part of the back story to this book is how a US-backed military coup displaced a popularly elected President, Mel Zelaya, just before Stewart landed in Honduras. This didn't concern too many folks in North America. Zelaya, like Maduro today, represented the poor...seems like it is ok to abandon democracy when it is only the poor who get hurt.]
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on January 25, 2013
I love adventure stories, especially those of an intrepid jungle explorer who is lost, tired, wet and unnerved by the presence of jaguars and snakes. Christopher S. Stewart's "Jungleland" hits all the right notes. Stewart, whose typical expedition seems to be a trip to his local Starbucks in Brooklyn, decides to spend a month in darkest Honduras, searching for the fabled "lost city" of "Ciudad Blanco," or "White City." He follows in the footsteps of Theodore Morde, an explorer who, in 1940, claimed to have found a vast city in ruins deep in the rainforest. Such a finding was unexpected. The common wisdom of archeologists was that the the tropical rainforest was too hostile to man to permit extensive settlements.

In what resembles an Indiana Jones story, Stewart locates Morde's notes and diaries of the earlier expedition. There are clues to the location of the lost city, but no map or coordinates. Stewart sets off to find Ciudad Blanco.

He is torn leaving his wife and daughter. He adores Sky, his daughter, and in difficult moments in his trek he imagines being reunited with her. His wife, Amy, fails to understand why he would leave on such a perilous journey. He is accompanied on his mission by Chris Begley, an archeologist, and local natives, who make his journey possible. There are also interesting encounters with locals who inhabit the poorest of villages, isolated from civilization except for radio. They have heard of the ancient city, but fear it spells death to all who enter.

Stewart's book tells, in alternating chapters, Morde's story and his own. This literary device poses some problems, as the explorers take different routes. Even with excellent maps, I found it difficult to keep track of each explorer's progress and location. Moreover, Morde's life was both complicated and fascinating. After his trek to Honduras, he enlisted as an intelligence agent for the OSS (the predecessor of today's CIA) in World War II. Morde's life and adventures tend to overshadow those of the author.

Still, it's a rousing adventure yarn and well worth reading.

Did Morde tell the truth when he claimed to have discovered Ciudad Blanco? Does Stewart find the lost city? Or will Stewart's quest be interrupted by a jaguar attack or the bite of a poisonous snake? No fair telling. Read Mr. Stewart's book to find out.
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on August 10, 2013
since the ousting of zelaya as president of honduras a number of writers/journalists have described their "experience" of being in honduras at the time.
sadly all (that i have read) seem to have taken incredible literary license, trying to make it seem akin to being in saigon during the fall of vietnam.
i was there and would love to spin a yarn or two to impress my less traveled friends but in reality it wasn't that different than any other time recently in honduras at the street level.
this author writes about flying into san pedro sula on an empty last "flight in", like he's the crazy/brave gringo heading into the mouth of hell. what a bunch of bollocks, i was there. life was barely different than a month or a year earlier other than the occasional masked men burning tires on the side of the road.
his exaggeration of the situation completely blows the book as far as i'm concerned, if you're going to make stuff up then at least make up other stuff so the story is interesting.
honduras' recent history turned into very boring fiction warped through the eyes of a mamby pamby mommas boy from a nice safe american suburban upbringing who seems to have convinced his family and publisher that he an adventurer.
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on August 22, 2017
Nicely researched. You really feel the environment when reading. Somehow I knew that there would be no clear denouement, just like the Lost City of Z story. Yes, I know it's the journey, not the destination... I find H. Rider Haggard's stories more engaging and they have more satisfying endings for me. However, be forewarned; Haggard's stories reflect the political and racial Euro-centric views of his times.
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on September 5, 2016
I love true stories and this was fascinating. I had also read "Lost City of Z" and this is exactly on the same lines. I am planning on purchasing some of his bibliography because I had no idea of the other adventures that wait to be read. Exciting and memorable.
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on January 18, 2014
I had to trudge through the first third of the book that was all about this nebulous character Maud and the personal life of the author. The second third of the book was poorly described about life in the jungles of Honduras. By this time I lost all my patience and stopped reading the book.
I suggest that one can get many really good books about jungle life in South America in The Lost City of Z and in Buddy Levy's book about Francisco Orellana's epic voyage from Ecuador to the mouth of the Amazon river.
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on May 25, 2017
Author describes jungle so damp and muddy so deep you'll feel like you're there. Tsk a machete to hack away the mysterious meaning and you find yourself looking for a ticket to the "lost city ". You'll enjoy the bug bites.
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on October 15, 2017
We all have a bit of wanderlust hiding inside. This story piques the interest but reality surfaces to rationalize why more do not act. Exploring is a Damon hard job.
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