In 1559, 49 Spaniards exploring a tributary of the Orinoco River reached a sheer-sided, cloud-capped mountain called Tepui Zupay. When they tried to climb it, all but six were slaughtered by Amazons. Or so claimed Friar Sylvestre, the expedition's chronicler. But Sylvestre made many bizarre claims: rivers of blood, plants that lead to gold.
Jerry Pace, a burn-scarred botanist struggling for tenure at UCLA, thinks the friar was delusional. Jerry's best friend, the historian who just acquired Sylvestre's journal, disagrees. He plans to retrace the expedition's footsteps, and wants Jerry to come with him. Jerry refuses, until he spots a stain between the journal's pages - a stain that could only have been left by a plant that died out with the dinosaurs. Now he has to find that plant.
But the Venezuelan wilderness does not forgive intruders. Battered and broken, they reach a remote Catholic orphanage where the old prioress warns of death awaiting any who would venture farther. But an exotic Indian girl leads them on, through piranha-infested rivers and jungles teaming with poisonous plants, to Tepui Zupay - the forbidden mountain no outsider has set eyes on since the Spaniards met their doom.
This is a story about life's surprises - the challenges, risks - and how they transform us. It is also a tale of beauty and the beast.
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