The Peruvian chapter of our mythical tale is far murkier and sinister than the others. In Peru, a number of conquistadores attempted to find the legendary golden city with a variety of unsuccessful and tragic endings. For some, such as the vicious Lope de Aguirre, karma ensured that they got what they deserved. For others, like the Inca king Atahualpa, it allowed him to deprive the treacherous Spaniards of what they desired most, even after his unfortunate demise. However, it was here that El Dorado was combined with another mythical city of incredible riches and became the grand story that we follow today.
The Incas told of a mysterious city, deep in the remote jungles of southeast Peru, called Paititi. Pizarro, having seen the incredible riches flowing from every corner of the country to pay for the king’s ransom, became obsessed with finding the source of all this wealth. Historical accounts suggest that the Incas associated Paititi with the ‘hacha hacha’, the exotic yet treacherous jungle spanning up to the Río Tambopata and the plains of the Mojos in Bolivia. The sacred Antisuyo within, was the forested eastern quarter of the Incan world, an abstract concept as important to the Incan psyche as its jungle-covered gold mines were to Incan sumptuousness. However, to Spanish conquistadores such as Gómez de Tordoya and Juan Alvarez Maldonado, Paititi was the fabled land of riches that would give them the fame and glory they sought and that, ultimately, led them all to their deaths.
Nonetheless, to followers of the great 18th Century insurrectionists Juan Santos Atahualpa and Tupac Amaru II, Paititi was the mysterious realm to the east of the Andes over which these leaders ruled and into which they would retire to escape death. Consequently, for many Peruvian and European explorers thereafter, Paititi became another Machu Picchu waiting to be discovered deep in the jungle. A ruined refuge city to which the Incans fled the Spanish invasion and, more importantly, the site that contained that which is most conspicuously lacking at Machu Picchu – gold and treasure.