‘Along the River that Flows Uphill’ is a travel book with a difference. It weaves the story of an Amazon journey with science, math and reason to explore the risks that are inherent in any adventurous travel.
One recent summer, authors Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt were commissioned by ‘Geographical’ – the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society in London – to travel the length of a strange river in Venezuela called the Casiquiare.
This river – once the source of great controversy – is like no other, since it joins two otherwise-separate river systems, the Orinoco and the Amazon, by apparently flowing up and over the watershed that divides them. Rivers should not be able to do that.
In their book, the authors recount the story of their journey on the Casiquiare, including a brush with a tribe of Yanomami Indians and a confrontation with FARC guerrillas. Along the way, they also explore thoughts and ideas – both humorous and serious – that relate to the thrills and stresses of off-the-map travel.
Targeted Age Group:: 20 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The misadventures we had on a river boat journey along the Orinoco river in Venezuela inspired us to write this book on how to evaluate the risks involved in adventure travel.
This extract from our book describes a visit that Lucho, our Bare Indian guide, set up for us with the head man of a Yanomami Indian village located on the banks of the Orinoco river, Venezuela.
Lucho pushes at a wooden board that serves as the door, and we step inside. After several moments waiting for our eyes to adjust to the gloom, I see that I’m standing on a mud floor with a high roof that slopes steeply overhead. In front of me, two wooden poles have been stuck into the floor, with a third one slung horizontally between them. This third pole is draped with loincloths, underpants and shirts, as well as the carcass of an animal I can’t identify. A Yanomami man crouches beneath it, holding a machete and apparently guarding a heap of papaya on the mud in front of him. Next to him, slouched on a white, plastic chair, sits a big-bellied man wearing blue shorts and an angry scowl. This is the headman, Lucho tells me. A huge wad of tobacco is stuffed into his lower lip so that it sticks out like an open bottom drawer; and his teeth, when he shows them, are black with decay. He glares at me with an expression of malice. In the gloom behind him, a hammock swings, and from even further back comes the sound of a baby crying and a woman murmuring in an effort to calm it. I step forward and present the headman with the braids of tobacco that we bought in Puerto Ayacucho. The tobacco is still damp, just as it should be, and since the shopkeeper we bought it from assured us that it’s of the best quality, I am confident it will be well received. The headman snatches the braids from me and holds them in both hands under his nose as if he’s about to gnaw on a bone. Then he hurls them to the ground at my feet. He makes a noise of disgust that needs no translation, and for a long moment, there’s a strained silence. I’m not sure how to proceed, but then I remember the Number Ten fish-hooks and pull a small bag of them out of my pack and extend it towards him. He again snatches at the bag, peers inside and examines the fish-hooks, one by one, before he passes them on to the man on the floor with the machete and the heap of papaya. He grunts then, and dismisses me with a flick of his hand.
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