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Full Circle

Day 209: On the Amazon

Amazon River, Caballococha, Peru 
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El Arca moored on the Amazon at Caballococha.
Michael Palin - Full CircleToday we are up at the crack of dawn to disembark into small boats and explore creeks overhung with mangrove trees and a jungle lagoon where utter peace and tranquillity is only disturbed by the braying cry of a bird whose name I particularly like - the Horned Screamer. On the way, we learn from Daniel that a greater volume of water is discharged from the mouth of the Amazon than the combined total of the world's next eight longest rivers put together, and that annual rainfall in the Amazon Basin has dropped from 350 inches per year in the 1920s to 150 inches a year now, mainly as a result of deforestation.

Reeling from so many facts so early in the morning, we return gratefully to the El Arca for breakfast. It is only a brief respite. The boat steams down river to a native village where we disembark once again and watch traditional dancing performed fairly badly by bored natives. By lunchtime the temperature has reached ninety-nine degrees. This whole long hot day is made worthwhile for me by seeing, on the bank, a little girl in a green dress cradling an ocelot kitten. It is one of the most beautiful creatures I have seen. A long body with perfect spotted markings. A compact, graceful feline head with big black and white ears and an expression that was proud, wise and anxious at the same time. The little girl said she would sell it to me for 200 dollars. I declined of course. I'm going to Alaska - it wouldn't be happy there. That evening I ask Daniel what would become of it. He said it would be killed for its skin - quite soon.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 209
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: The Amazon River
  • Book page no: 275

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