A River Too Far
by Lee Flandreau

"Nighttime gives you time to think about things: how far you’ve come, how far it is to go back and what is to be gained by going farther."

In May 1990, friends Bill and Lee fly to South America to begin their journey to explore the Amazon rainforest, guided by locals Victor and Jose. Obstacles that the duo encounters include bats, electric eels, homesickness, and language barriers with their guides. Lee, the self-described family historian of the trip, notices that the guides do not describe animals and plants in detail, so he wonders if the Amazon species are so foreign and undiscovered that no one has categorized them. Other adventures of the journey include gawking at women in a brothel, surviving a capsized boat, and learning the customs of a Huarayo village. A guardian angel in the form of a travel agent from Lima saves them from being stuck in the jungle forever and helps them board a flight to Machu Picchu.

The author demonstrates a respectable knowledge of history, such as describing the infamous rubber baron when they encounter a ghost ship, which makes the work an engaging read. A reader can imagine the vivid settings of South America as the author describes the pain of bug bites, the sounds of rain, the feel of electricity with the eel prank, and the sight of the women in the brothel. The author is honest about the fact that this was no vacation and highlights moments of discomfort and worry. Though the trip was fraught with surprises and unknowns, the travelers remember the trip positively and are grateful for the experience—so much so that they next travel to the Serengeti. The author shows respect for this relatively unexplored part of the world by stating his hope that human development of the Amazon is done with care and preservation. Based on this adventure, readers have much to look forward to in the author’s next travelogue.

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