Douglas Preston thought he walked out of the “Gates of Hell” unscathed.
Sipping on Port Royal beer with explorer and filmmaker Steve Elkins by the pool of their Honduras hotel in 2015, the two shared a laugh. No one on their expedition — from the archaeologists, to the submachine gun-toting military soldiers to the crocodile dundee-wannabes — had succumbed to the curse of the monkey god.
It was quite an accomplishment given their search for the Lost City of the Monkey God led them through Central America’s heart of darkness.
Early maps of the Honduran jungles once labelled La Mosquitia as the “Portal del Infierno” — and for good reason. The venom-spitting snakes can kill and the sandflies can inflict a flesh-eating parasite that can turn the human face into a weeping sore.
Then there are the legends. The indigenous tales every Honduran memorizes as a child warned of a lost city buried deep in the unexplored jungles. Its citizens lived vibrant lives until they were forced to abandon their riches in a mass exodus to escape the anger of the monkey god in the 16th century. Anyone who entered the city in their place would incur the wrath of the god and be cursed.
“I shrugged it off,” says Preston, who documented his travels in the new New York Times bestseller Lost City of the Monkey God.
“All lost cities seem to be cursed, right?”