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Along the River that Flows Uphill: From the Orinoco to the Amazon (Armchair Traveller) Hardcover – October 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


'Along the River that Flows Uphill: From the Orinoco to the Amazon is a travelogue of a journey along the Casiquiare river, unique among rivers in that it joins two separate river systems - the Oroinco and the Amazon - seemingly by flowing up and over the watershed that separates them. Former journalist Richard Starks and travel writer and editor Miriam Murcutt relate their adventure along the mysterious Casiquiare in vivid detail, including a brush with a tribe of Yanomami Indians and a potentially dangerous confrontation with FARC guerillas. Their reflections of the sights, wonders, and wistful beauties of a little-traveled path make for an unforgettably vivid travelogue. Along the River that Flows Uphill is a treat highly recommended especially for armchair travelers.' Midwest Book Review "Along the River that Flows Uphill' is not just a story but a real life adventure that takes twists and turns along a remarkable stretch of water that remains nearly untouched. The authors not only give a stunning account of their adventures but provide intriguing background information as they go through the journey. From slight sidebars to detailed accounts of jungle, river and bugs, the reader feels as though she joined the authors on the trip... This is an extremely intelligent book that leaves the reader feeling wiser for having read it and more aware of the fragility of the world, as well as a bit of disgust at the corruption that plagues the political arenas.' 'A very well written book that has a few surpirses along the way.' -- Melissa Koltes "I've nearly died three times in my life -- which is funny in an ironic way, since I was once accused of never taking any risks." This first line of Along the River that Flows Uphill sets the tone completely. We understand, just from that, that we're about to embark on an adventure. The other thing that we understand is that we're in the hands of a storyteller or, as it turns out, a couple of them. In 2005, the authors were commissioned to write an article for Geographical, the magazine of the London-based Royal Geographical Society. Their assignment was to travel the length of the Casiquiare River in Venezuela, the river that joins the Amazon and the Orinoco by apparently flowing uphill. One can see, however, where the material the pair were assembling might have overflowed from the article they'd been assigned. The book the two produced is both enjoyable and informative: and so much beyond the travelogue one might expect. It is creative non-fiction. It is literature. It is history. It is geography. It is adventure. And it is cracking good fun -- Aaron Blanton January Magazine 20091231

About the Author

Richard Starks has worked as a writer, editor and publisher of newsletters and magazines in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. He is the author of six books, three of them co-authored with Miriam Murcutt.

Miriam Murcutt is a writer, editor and former marketing executive in the travel and publishing industries in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. She has co-authored three books, all with Richard Starks.

Their first book, 'Lost in Tibet', is a true-life adventure set against the political and cultural background of pre-Chinese Tibet. Their second book, 'Along the River that Flows Uphill', is a travel book that uses an account of an Amazon journey the authors made to assess the risks inherent in all adventurous travel. And their third book , 'A Room with a Pew- Sleeping our way through Spain's ancient monasteries' is an account of a journey the authors took through Spain staying with communities of monks and nuns behind the walls of seven of Spain's ancient monasteries.
The two authors have travelled extensively throughout South and Central America, Europe, the Far East, and the Himalayas.  They say that the journey they write about in 'Along the River that Flows Uphill' took them further off-the-map than most of their other journeys have done.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Haus Publishing (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906598320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906598327
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Reader and Writer on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book starts out daringly: the authors book a South American boat and guide over the internet. They fly to Venezuela, board the old barque guided by the free spirited Lucho and about fifteen of Lucho's invited travelers, and they began a slow trek along the Casiquiare. The what you say? The Casiquiare, a fabled river connecting the Orinoco and Amazon River systems whose fame arises from the fact it must flow up and over the watershed in order to connect the two larger rivers.

Starks, who seems to narrate most of the journey, is an admitted fan of books documenting the expeditions of explorers like David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. The proposal for this venture was sent around to magazines and Geographical, published by the Royal Geographical Society of London, decided to support him. I admit the book caught me at a good time, having just finished Richard Snailman's "A Giant Among Rivers" documenting a major research expedition in 1974-75 along the Zaire River (Congo). I wanted a rip-roaring river-read. I wanted to blink with amazement as I followed them to their destination. Then I want to blink with amazement when I finished reading and returned to contemporary life. However, compared to earlier books by explorers, the events in this book are low key and reported with a casual tone. This is perhaps to be expected. Starks admits he's a man adverse to risks, who says, "I now realize I do not want to go inside the cage with the lions." How different is his quote when contrasted to that of famous explorer David Livingstone who said, "I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward."

"Our days at Casiquiare have fallen into a somnolent routine," he journals. A few events do take place, they visit a Yanomami village. They see a howler monkey.
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Format: Hardcover
This low-budget journey along the Casiquiare River in Venezuela should be called a `quest' rather than a `vacation,' since it involved not only a goal, but also a fair amount of unpleasantness, such as an attempted kidnapping by the FARC guerillas. Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt were commissioned by "Geographical," the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society in London to explore a river that joins two great South American river systems, the Orinoco and the Amazon, by apparently flowing uphill over the watershed that divides them.

Most of the journey is by boat, so there is plenty of time for reading and musing. I was especially fond of the author's riff on the creation myths of the Yanomami Indians versus the Old Testament versus the latest cosmological Big Bang. Stanley's journey through Africa to find Dr. Livingston (who didn't really want to be found, most especially not by an American journalist) is interwoven with the authors' own journey up the Casiquiare River.

There are also up-close and personal encounters with the Yanomami, one of whom nocks an arrow at the author while he is taking photographs. In common with many Stone Age people, the Yanomami believe cameras are soul-stealing devices. Or possibly, the guy with the bow happened to be in a bad mood on that particular day. The Yanomami don't lead very easy lives, especially the women.

However, the misery of the Yanomami women still contrasts favorably to the lives of the FARQ kidnap victims, some of whom have been captives in the Columbian jungles for over a decade. The operations of the FARC guerillas are funded by kidnap for ransom, illegal mining, extortion and the production and distribution of illegal drugs.
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Format: Hardcover
The Casiquiare River in South America is unusual in that it connects to the Amazon that flows through Brazil down to the South Atlantic and also to the Orinoco that flows through Venezuela to the edge of the Caribbean. It is not a sluggish canal but a large river with a current that can reach the speed of 8 mph in some stretches. When the river was first discovered and reported by Father Acuna in 1639, his claim was dismissed as the knowledge of hydrology at the time would mean that the river flowed uphill over a watershed.
In 2005, the authors were commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society in London to travel the length of the Casiquiare. The river is deep within the jungles of the Amazon basin along the border between Brazil and Venezuela. It is also near the border with Columbia in the region controlled by the criminal organization known as FARC, known for kidnapping foreigners for ransom and killing them when they believed the hostages no longer had any value. The expedition would also traverse the region inhabited by the Yanomami tribes, now protected but in many cases still living a Stone Age existence.
Their account of the journey is heightened by the historical retrospectives about the early European contact with the native peoples of South America as well as the famous expedition of Henry Morton Stanley into Africa. Even today, journeys like this are not for the easily discouraged. The authors of this book faced the genuine threats of massive amounts of biting insects, the potential hostility of the Yanomami and kidnapping by agents of FARC. While they did encounter all three and faced questioning by a member of FARC they were wise enough to beat a sneaky retreat by boat back over the river into Venezuela.
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