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Full Circle

Day 191: Quillabamba to Kiteni

Michael Palin - Full CircleWake with the daylight at a quarter to six. Cockerel and chickens already up and making a lot of noise, though I can't see them anywhere. Eventually find them strutting about the deep end of an empty swimming pool. A small deer wanders about the garden, so tame it will take a piece of fried banana from my hand.

The organization of our river trip, now tantalizingly close, is in the hands of Barry Walker, a Mancunian ornithologist who, with his Peruvian wife, runs a fine pub called the Cross Keys in Cuzco. Barry reckons it will take us seven days and nights of what he calls 'rough travel'. I don't like the way he smiles when he says this. Barry towers over the local Indians. With his long greying hair and a shapely beer belly he looks a cross between a seventies rock band drummer and the model for the 'Skegness Is So Bracing' poster. He has almost limitless enthusiasm and is particularly excited about what lies ahead because, as he says, 'I've never seen this part of the river.'

Which is great for an ornithologist but not so good for a tour-guide.

We load our equipment into what he calls Barry's Big Bus and set out for Kiteni, which is where we shall transfer to the river boats. A long, slow drive during which I have time to get reacclimatized to the tropics for the first time since we left Darwin, Australia. A dusty track through thick forest verges from which huge, slashed banana leaves rise like the tattered sails of a ship. We pass houses, often only detectable through the all-entwining greenery by a plume of woodsmoke. Trucks, packed with villagers, perched precariously on top of coffee bean sacks, sway by on their way to market at Quillabamba.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 191
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Quillabamba
  • Book page no: 258

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