It all started the very first time I met my soon-to-be father-in-law. It seemed innocent enough at the time – just a harmless dinner – trading a few simple stories back and forth. But then he started talking about the time he went gold hunting in the Peruvian Amazon. And that was all it took. I had caught the fever.

How can I explain gold fever to someone who has never been afflicted by it? It eats away reason. It expands imagination. It blurs fiction with fantasy and it makes the rationally impossible seem perfectly attainable.

I don’t know. Maybe I was prone to catching it – a high-risk like the elderly and the flu. But sitting there in his living room listening to him talk about gold dust mixed with sand all along the river banks just there for the taking… it was just too much to resist. My immune system couldn’t fight off the assault.

Of course I was skeptical. But he explained it away simply. He asked if I had heard of the Inca and the Spanish conquistadors. He then told me the story of the capture of King Atahualpa and how Pizarro brought 11 tons of gold back to Spain from Peru. He went on to explain that the gold had originated in the Andes but that every year during the rainy season, gold from the mountains washes down into the river basin and that during the three month dry season, the rivers recede to reveal gold in certain secret places.

He told me that his father had found one of those deposits and that he and his brothers had spent a month camped along the riverbanks harvesting all the gold they could carry when he was young. He told me that there exists a utopian village where people harvest gold for a living. Had he found the real El Dorado – a paradise in the jungle where gold is there for the taking.

I became possessed. All I could think about was going into the Amazon to find that village where people lived off the gold they pulled from the shores. I tried to cure myself by doing research but every book just fueled my illusions by showing pictures of Incan treasures. Gold. More gold. Gold for the taking when the rivers go down.

It made sense. The Inca had to get all that gold from somewhere. And it seemed perfectly logical that gold could percolate out of the Andes and mix into the water systems. And when that water receded during the dry season, the gold had to settle somewhere. It seemed like a perfectly natural cycle, a yearly replenishing of gold reserves, a balance between taking and giving.

And I suppose that by now some of you reading this find me gullible and naïve. Maybe you find the logic flawed or think that if there were places in this world where gold just exists, then everyone would know about it and it would all be gone. Or maybe you just have a natural resistance to the fever.

But remember, the Amazon is a mysterious place that holds its secrets tightly and where things are not always what they seem to be. The jungle is a place where hours become days and where distances melt into incomprehensible scales. The jungle is a place of chimeras and half-truths.

There are some things that can be explained through words. Others must just be experienced through imagination and dreams. Maybe these pictures and videos will help you find your own fever. Or maybe they will at least help you believe in alchemy…