Finding and organising guides/walking companions has proved to be time consuming and expensive. I have lost weeks – months even – over the course of this expedition, finding and waiting for guides, and I have just lost another month of good low-water walking time doing just that. However, the benefits of walking with a local person are too numerous to mention, so I am prepared to wait – despite the frustration that lost time brings.
After, surprisingly, not finding anyone willing to walk with me in three different communities, I seriously contemplated the pros and cons of crossing to Coari solo. Several days of deliberation later I decided to go it alone. After traversing thigh deep mud that the rapidly receding river had exposed, I managed to put the spare backpack on a passing passenger boat heading down the Rio Purus for Manaus. I was ready. Then, the night before I was due to start the crossing to Coari, I received a satellite Inreach message from the UK informing me of the very sad news of British explorer Emma Kelty’s murder near Coari. Along with local indigenous stories (exaggerated, in my opinion) and warnings of the risks of entering the jungle alone compounded by recent dry weather and the possibility of not encountering enough water on my proposed route, it knocked my confidence just enough to make me change both my mind and the route.
That very same day (the day I was due to walk solo) an enormous thunderstorm and torrential rain like I’ve never seen before hit the village. A powerful lighting bolt struck and unfortunately destroyed the community’s only generator they had been using for the past five years without any problems.
I am now in a small town about 24 hour’s boat journey downriver from my proposed re-start point, waiting to retrieve the other backpack and hopefully secure a walking companion with the help of Jose from the Indigenous community I had been staying with. Jose was the only person who wanted to cross the forest with me but he recently badly injured his leg in an accident and was still recovering.
Over the next 3-4 months I need to get past the next two major tributaries before the rivers start to rise again and flood deeply into the surrounding forest. If I were using a canoe to cross flooded forest I would probably be in Peru and heading for the mountains by now, but time is not of the essence in my journey – although the very real prospect of running out of money is! I have to keep reminding myself of what the writer Leo Tolstoy said, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”
Allow me to finish by paying tribute to Emma Kelty – clearly a lady of enormous courage and determination, a great loss to her family and friends. Rest in peace Emma.
Jose asking some of the Indigenous community if they want to cross the jungle. They didn’t seem very keen!
View of Rio Purus from Terra Vemelha. The river is almost 12 meters lower than it was in late June