In the recent era of the confinement caused by Covid 19, just yesterday, we got used to travel virtually, without getting up from the couch. As if we were in a comfortable room at home, without suffering the rigors of excessive heat, the discomfort of boat decks crowded with hammocks and people, the incessant buzzing of insects, sometimes crushed by the shrillness of the music.
But no, a trip navigating the waters of the Amazon River, the longest and largest river in the world, is something else. It is an adventure, an adventure in which the contemplation of a lush jungle ends up becoming a routine. The river has many greens, a clear blue sky that sometimes fills with clouds, and a water almost light mud-colored, which, with its continuous movements, subjects the boat that transports you to a swaying that ends up making you feel drowsy, to which the monotonous noise of the numerous pequepeques, the motorboats that ply the river, contributes.
That feeling of pleasant discomfort derived from the voyage of discovery, I felt it again reading the brief report by Baltasar Montaño, which recounts a journey of several months through the Amazon, in El País Semanal, corresponding to the week of August 21 of this year 2022. A journey as uncomfortable as the one I myself made, on a few stretches of the great river in 2016, when I was living for almost a year in the city of Iquitos, in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon.
Montaño’s text took me back to the chaos of Pucallpa or Iquitos, invaded by noisy motocars, the cabs of the Amazon, which look like giant insects that threaten to devour you when you cross the main streets. It reminded me of the meeting of the Ucayali and Marañon rivers to form the gigantic Amazon, a point where the river reaches a width of about 40 kilometers from one bank to the other during the rising water season.
Reading Montaño I felt again the mysterious sensuality that the nervous big Amazonian cities breathe: Iquitos, Manaos or Belém. But Montano’s trip was superior to mine in every way. He traveled for several months, more than 7,000 kilometers, starting from Arequipa, near the snow-capped Mismi, where the Amazon is born as an innocent trickle of water, until he reached the mouth of the Amazon, the SolimoesThe pororocó, in the Atlantic Ocean, making a dreadful noise, near Tapajós Island, the largest river island in the world.
The river enters the sea like a waterspout, turning seawater into brackish water for several kilometers offshore. Unconcerned with the world, having lost the concrete sense of space and time, one is enchanted by the Amazon adventure that gives you what no other trip can give you: the sense of solitude and insignificance of being, the vigor of life, full and biodiverse, the sensation that you are entering a place where the intercession of God is not so necessary to appease the wrath of man. A harmonious, if imperfect, world where one is able to hear one’s inner voices and share in solidarity the few material things one brings into the world.
Montaño, B. (2022, August 21). Cruising the Amazon: a river madness that changes every traveler. Ediciones EL PAÍS S.L. https://elpais.com/eps/2022-08-21/surcando-el-amazonas-una-locura-fluvial-que-cambia-a-todo-viajero.html
Dr. Rafael Cartay is a Venezuelan economist, historian, and writer best known for his extensive work in gastronomy, and has received the National Nutrition Award, Gourmand World Cookbook Award, Best Kitchen Dictionary, and The Great Gold Fork. He began his research on the Amazon in 2014 and lived in Iquitos during 2015, where he wrote The Peruvian Amazon Table (2016), the Dictionary of Food and Cuisine of the Amazon Basin (2020), and the online portal delAmazonas.com, of which he is co-founder and main writer. Books by Rafael Cartay can be found on Amazon.com
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