Travel Thursday: Paddle to the Amazon

Don Starkell documents his two-year canoeing odyssey from Winnipeg, Canada to Belem, Brazil in the book Paddle to the Amazon. This remarkable journey is full of fascinating details of the climate, water, people and animals along the way.

Travel Thursday: Paddle to the Amazon

Rio Orinoco, Venezuela, January 17, 1982 A couple of days ago, west of Puerto Ordaz, we were trailed for over an hour by five dolphins, or toninas, whose silvery skin was blotched with pink patches and whose dorsal fins were small and soft-looking, unlike the more prominent fins we are used to. From time to time, one of them would rocket towards us on the surface and then veer away sharply as it got to the canoe, doing its playful best to give us a good splash.

Rio Orinoco, Venezuela, January 22 A while ago several of our friendly toninas gathered around our campsite, poking their noses and eyes above water to see what we were up to. We realize now some of them have been following us for three or four days. Many of them have distinctive pink blotches, so that we’ve come to recognize them as individuals. The day before,we were surprised to see one that was entirely pink.

Travel Thursday: Paddle to the Amazon

Rio Orinoco, Venezuela, January 27 We had a magical experience as we left camp this morning. Several big toninas were swimming along in front of us, half watching us as we stroked. Every so often, one of them would break from the rest and power in toward us, jumping into the air a few feet from the canoe and doing a somersault, sending a high spray of water over us. We’ve begun to suspect that they don’t follow our canoe merely for friendship but because we tend to scare the smaller fish out from along the banks.

Werner Herzog’s Notes on “Fitzcarraldo”

Some excerpts from Werner Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless, detailing the making of his Fitzcarraldo in the jungles of Peru:

A fairly young intelligent-looking man with long hair asked me whether filming or being filmed could do harm, whether it could destroy a person. In my heart the answer was yes, but I said no. Screenshot (190)A drunk spat at the monkey and almost hit him from behind. The monkey inspected and sniffed with great interest at the globule from the depths of an unhealthy lung, as it lay on the ground, greenish yellow and steaming. I said silently to him, Leave it, leave it alone, and he let it be.

The thunderstorm held off all afternoon, but then descended far off over the rain forest, sweating and steaming, as if out there an enormous, violent rape were being carried out. Screenshot (182)I had a violent, absurd quarrel with (Klaus) Kinski about his mineral water, with which he washes himself now. Suddenly Kinski started yelling again…calling Sergio Leone and Corbucci rotten vermin…Fellini a bungling idiot, a fat bastard.

This turkey, this bird of ill omen, is a pure albino, so it is quite a sight when it fans its great white wheel, spreads its wings, whose tips trail to the ground and puffs its feathers. Snorting in bursts, it launched several feigned attacks on me and gazed at me with such intense stupidity emanating from its ugly face. I pulled a feather out of its spreading rear end. Now the turkey’s sulking. Screenshot (195)Tumors form on the trees. Roots writhe in the air. The jungle revels in debauched lewdness.Screenshot (185)When I went into the forest to take a shit, a pig followed me , snuffling and waiting with shameless greed for my shit. Even when I threw sticks at it, the animal only took a few symbolic steps backwards.