The White City – aka. Ciudad Blanca – aka. Lost City of the Monkey God — aka. Portal del Infirerno – aka. Kaha Kamasa

So many names for the same undiscovered place.
October 1977

Ok! A quick recap.

  1. Lost all of my travel photos in the mail
  2. Right before the adventure of a lifetime, I lost my camera and remaining film.
On our way to the Lost City of the Monkey Gods (aka. The White City)

At that point all I could tell myself was that my mind would have to act as a movie camera, and record all of the events so that I could play them back at a later date. Oh boy, was I lying to myself! But it was the only way I wouldn’t get depressed and jump off the now moving dugout?

Nonetheless, we were finally off. We had hired three short but muscular Miskito Indians from Mocoron who were now, slowly poling up river while Nevada, Rainy and I sat uncomfortably perched on the large sacks of food. Whenever we hit a cascade, which was often, we all had to get out and drag the canoe either up the rocky falls, or push and pull it around on the muddy banks. No small feat for this 25-foot water sodden tree truck of a canoe. At first, Rainy and I tried to help, but it quickly became apparent that we were doing more harm than good, so we backed off and just watched them struggle.

We did this for about a week. Each night we would pull over to the muddy bank, find a dry spot and the guys, using their machetes, would build us a lean-to with branches and leaves. Then one of the guys would ask for a few bullets and off into the jungle they would go. Bang! It usually only took one shot, and they came back with a bird or some other tropical animal. They would then clean and smoke it over the fire for our evening feast.

We all sat around that fire at night talking mostly in our common language—Spanish. Because it was both our second language, we were speaking like 5-year old’s, but that didn’t stop us. We had learned a little of their language, and many of their words were in fact English.

I would usually start with something like, “Como se dice ‘flashlight’ in Miskito?” (How do you say….)

They would all gleefully shout back, “Flashlight!”

“Como se dice ‘shoes’ in Miskito?”

“Shoes.”

My crude dictionary translating Miskito to Spanish.

They never seemed to get bored of the game before we did. We continued on this way, like I said, for about a week, until we pulled over to the bank and hauled the boat out. They then picked up all of our belongings, hoisted them onto their shoulders and set out across the jungle. Once again, they wouldn’t let us carry anything as we just slowed the pace way down.

By about 3 mountains, and 6 rain-soaked days later we started to realize that our guides decidedly had no idea where the White City was. Rainy and I talked it over in the dead of night listening to the jungle wildlife make loud tropical sounds. We both said that if we wanted to salvage this wilderness trek, we needed a new PLAN! We were in a fabulous spot with a roaring river next to a large waterfall that was so loud it made it difficult to hear, but it was oh, so spectacular! I mean we spent all this time and energy and money to get here. Why not just relax and enjoy it?

Each day we sent out guides away. We found that we were really comfortable in the jungle.

The next morning, we told our 3 friends to go back to the last campsite we had made. Each day they were to come back at dawn, get more bullets and food, and see if we were ready to go. And so it was that we spent another very happy week taking short walks, reading and lounging in the makeshift lounges that we had fashioned with local material. We found out that we really had a penchant for relaxing in places that would make other people cry. Hey, that “Boring Adventurer” thing was really starting to pay off!

All too soon, as the food began to run out, it was time to go back. The only high note was that while it had taken the guys days and days to pole up river it only took us two days to return. That was because so much rain had fallen since we started, that the river had now risen to a fast-moving torrent. We literally surfed our way back to Mocoron.

Why Are All of My Photos So Bad?

September 1977

To all of my photography followers, you might be wondering just why all of my photos are so bad? When we sold off everything in Guatemala there were a few items we just couldn’t bear to lose. Among them were our diaries and my thousands of photos. We bundled them carefully and mailed them all back to a relative in California. Unfortunately, they never arrived. That was something that we would not find out for a few years. The good news, I guess, was that on one of our trips back home, I had culled out all of my rejects and thrown them in the trash. My father had the foresight to retrieve and save them. These rejects are images I have been scanning in and they have required quite a bit of repair. They are the ones that you are now seeing here in the blog.

Map of Puerto Limpira and Mocoron in northern Honduras

Back to the travels, in the 70’s Honduras was like the wild west. It must have been like it was in the 1800’s in this country. It seemed like everyone had some scheme for making money. Some wanted us to invest in their goldmine, or smuggle Mayan artifacts or sell scarlet macaws, and these are just the ones that I can tell you about. Almost everyone had a gun, except of course us, but by then we were hardened adventure travelers so, of course we absolutely fell in love with the country.

Here I am relaxing in a homemade lounge chair. There was always plenty of time to relax.

On one of our trips to the La Mosquitia, in northern Honduras, I met the governor of the Department of Gracias Adios. It was an area filled mostly with swamp-land, savannas and jungles. Unlike many of the do-gooders who were trying to change the “primitive” people, Rainy and I admired their simple way of life. We were living with the Misquito Indians, learning their language and their style of building with the materials they had around them. We felt that we had many things to learn from them. Perhaps it was because of this that when we met the governor, he took a liking to us. It was reinforced especially when I taught him to swim. In exchange. he taught me to fire a pistol. He then wrote us a very official looking letter that simply said we were friends of his. He stamped it with a whole bunch of official looking stamps and then signed it with the flourish of his very ornate signature. With that letter we were able to get on any government plane, boat or truck for free. It was even good for a steep discount at many hotels and restaurants. We used it quite a bit during the next year of our stay in Honduras.

That me with some of the children of the governor of the Dept. of Gracias Adios

We had heard tales about the ancient Cuidad Blanco or “White City” hidden somewhere deep in the jungles of the La Mosquitia. By then we had developed many friendships in the area. National Geographic and the Smithsonian had tried to find it and failed, but one friend assured us that he could guide us right to it. So, we took a government plane to a dirt airstrip outside of the town of Puerto Lempira. There we waited almost 2 weeks for a four-wheel drive government truck to take us to the village of Mocoron. We brought with us a 50-pound bag of rice, a 25-pound bag of beans, a sack of salt, 25 D batteries and a box of 22 long rifle shells, and of course, a whole bunch of rolls of film. We hired 3 locals and their 25-foot long wooden dugout. We packed it up our supplies and headed out on the Rio Mocoron for the next “adventure of a lifetime.”

One of the better houses in Mocoron

That’s when, right at the very start of our journey, I dropped my camera and bag in the murky water. It would be another year and a half before I could get my hands on another camera! AND, spoiler alert, it would be 2016 before the White City was actually found. Here is a short video from the guy who actually found it. I think that you will find it interesting.