Trail of Feathers

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Trail of Feathers
Trail of feathers.jpg
First UK edition
Author Tahir Shah
Original title Trail of Feathers
Illustrator Tahir Shah (photos)
Language English
Subject Peru, exploration
Genre Travel
Published 2001 Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Pages 273 pages
ISBN 978-1559706131
Preceded by Sorcerer's Apprentice (book)
Followed by In Search of King Solomon's Mines

Trail of Feathers is a travel book by Anglo-Afghan author, Tahir Shah.


Shah was enthralled by a line from the chronicle of a sixteenth-century monk, which said that the Incas ‘flew like birds’[1] over the jungle, and by the recurring theme of flying in Peruvian folklore, and in the book he set out to discover whether the Incas really did fly or glide above the jungles of Peru. Or, the author wondered, was the Spanish cleric alluding to flight of a different kind – flight inspired by a powerful hallucinogen?[2]

After gathering equipment in London—and advice from the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger—the long quest began.

Shah went first to the mountains of Peru and a trek to Machu Picchu, the Incas’ most sacred city, then on to the mountain city of Cusco and a mysterious island on the great glittering expanse of Lake Titicaca. Picking up clues as he went, Shah's trail took him on to the coast and through the desert, to the immense animal-like etchings which form the Nazca Lines, and a remote burial ground for thirty thousand mummified corpses. And finally he took an extended river journey up the Amazon to discover the secrets of the Shuar,[3] a tribe of infamous savagery living in the deep jungle of the Upper Amazon.

In the course of this journey, much was learnt much about the Spanish treatment of the Incas, about Peruvian folklore and magic, about the great but brief Amazon rubber boom of the nineteenth century, about head-shrinking, shamanic knowledge and plant-based hallucinogens.

Even though Shah was used to surreal adventures, there were many strange, gruesome and sometimes humorous encounters and physical challenges, among madmen and dreamers, sorcerers, con-men and jungle experts, before he could at last discover the truth about the Birdmen of Peru.[4]



  1. ^ Get Lost Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Shah, Tahir "Trail of Feathers", New York Times, July 21, 2002
  3. ^ Hardy, Edmund (2001). "An interview with Tahir Shah". The Richmond Review. Archived from the original on December 1, 2001. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  4. ^ Ferrell, Tom "I Believe I Can Fly", New York Times, July 21, 2002, Retrieved December 16, 2014

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