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Front cover of Forgotten Vilcabamba, color image of Jose Salas Cobos clearing the ruins at Puncuyoc
Title:Forgotten Vilcabamba:
    Final Stronghold of the INCAS
Author:Vincent R. Lee
Publisher:Sixpac Manco Publications
Pages:501 ( inc 44 color photos and 58 pages of maps and sketches )
Links: - Buy Forgotten Vilcabamba
- Author's website

Is it a guidebook or an adventure travelogue? It's both. The first 341 pages take the reader through the highs and lows of exploration in the heartland of the rump Inca empire - the joy of discovery and comprehension, the misery of endless rain, bugs and difficult travel companions. Throughout it all, Vincent remains a man obsessed with finding and documenting Incan ruins while uncovering the details of the last years of the Incan empire. This book is the result of 18 years of hard and clearly rewarding research in both the field and the 400-year-old Spanish conquistador literature from the Vilcabamba region.

The success of this book is largely due to the volume and style of detailed work Vincent has completed over the years. His background ( and current day job ) as an architect provides him with the skills to accurately survey sites he visits and discovers. The sketches and maps produced complete the final 58 pages of the tome, whilst other sketches and believable reconstructions are sprinkled throughout the first section. They provide an excellent guide to the sites from an armchair or out in the field. Unlike most other explorers of the region, Vincent has managed to gain the respect of archaeologists, and after locating numerous ruins through his own research he was invited to become a member of the Institute of Andean Studies at Berkeley. Other explorers have relied almost exclusively on local guides to take them to sites reported by campesinos, the remote self-sufficient farmers of Peru. So impressed were local guiding legends the Cobos family with Vincent's use of historical records to find previously unknown sites on his own logic, piecing together the geographical puzzles and match the land to the writings, that when they opened a hostal in Huancacalle ( the closest village to Vitcos/Rosaspata ) they named it Sixpac Manco after his expeditions and early books.

The travelogue section easily rivals, 'The White Rock' by Hugh Thomson for readability and lacks a slow midsection. The text has an appealing honesty that is extremely engaging throughout the story of how he came to explore, document and become tangled in the history of the Vilcabamba. The appendices, previously published as the pamphlet 'Chunasaya - The ruins of Inca Vilcabamba', provides a swath of information on all major Incan sites discovered in the Vilcabamba to date. All of the Incan roads they followed and the sites, including some pre-Inca/indigenous locations, are detailed in the text and excellent drawings by the author. We found the book to be more than sufficient during our visits to Inca Wasi, Vitcos and Yurac Rumi, which we completed without a guide - though we did stay at the Sixpac Manco Hospedaje!

It's difficult to recommend this book highly enough. If it had a shortcoming, it would be in the areas it doesn't attempt to cover. While standing at a ruin, it would be interesting to have an idea of how the areas would have been used. Knowing that a site was a fort or possibly served a ceremonial purpose is great, but what would have actually happened there on a regular basis? While Vince gives overviews of the history of the Incas, he doesn't speculate on the daily lives of those who once lived in the ruins he found - it's a documentation of the sites of the region and the references from the literature that match the details found in the sites to prove their identity and give insight as to their importance in history and, as such, it is pretty flawless.

While the book is quite expensive, it is so worth it for anyone interested in Incan ruins or visiting the region.

Click here to buy 'Forgotten Vilcabamba'

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