Archive for August, 2010

More Tales from the Amazon

August 31st, 2010 No comments

The night before I flew down to the rainforest, I stayed at a hotel in Cuzco.  There was a startling and curious mural stretching the length of the dining room which showed a Body Shop fantasy of an Amazonian paradise:   bare-breasted maidens bathing in idyllic pools surrounded by luxuriant greenery and compliant jungle animals;  the only thing most were wearing was a pendant of vaguely Incaic design.  Pass the jojoba shampoo.

I was not quite sure what I expected from the Amazon.  It’s become such a romanticised  ecological symbol – a flagship of all we stand to lose – that it’s become hard to see the trees for the wood.   Which is why I wanted to spend some time in one small patch of land, a reserve near the Peruvian town of Puerto Maldonado,  close to the border with Bolivia and Brazil. Read more…

Down the Amazon, no direction home

August 18th, 2010 No comments

The recent news that ex British Army captain Ed Stafford has completed his 859 day walk along the Amazon from its source to the sea deserves comment – and praise. It’s an epic achievement and one never achieved before.  Previous attempts  have always been made partly by boat, and for good reason:  some areas of the Amazon, like the Solimoes in Brazil,  flood for hundreds of kilometers each year and there are no roads along the main river, so to walk the entire length is daunting.

I also like his candour.  He told the wire-press agency AP that he was “no eco-warrior” and that while, like all of us, he deplored the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, his own expedition was at its heart simply a grand expedition of endurance:  “The crux of it is, if this wasn’t a selfish, boy’s-own adventure, I don’t think it would have worked.  I am simply doing it because no-one has done it before.”

In these days when every expedition has to have its ‘eco-message’ , however admirable (like the Plastiki, which has just sailed the Pacific on a raft made from recycled plastic bottles that unfortunately proved very difficult to stop drifting sideways), I find this quite refreshing.  The elemental urge ‘to be the first to do something’ has always been an immensely productive one. Read more…