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Running the Amazon Paperback – May 12, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 12, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067972902X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679729020
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1985 a team of hand-picked adventurers, including writer Joe Kane, embarked on a journey that would take them to the remote headwaters of the Amazon Basin. But that was just the beginning of the trip. Their goal: to navigate the world's longest river from source to mouth, a feat never before recorded.

After reaching (via a goat trail) a glacial trickle above 17,000 feet--debatably the farthest source of the Amazon--the team descends to a point where kayaks can be deployed. From there the trip entails kayaking through one of the nastiest white-water canyons on the planet, a stretch of water that has previously claimed the lives or quickly halted the plans of all who attempted to conquer it; navigating an unmapped gorge known affectionately as the Abyss; sneaking through the "Red Zone," an area closed to foreigners and occupied by the notorious Shining Path rebels; and, finally, paddling to the Atlantic by sea kayak through 3,000 miles of hot jungle.

Hired initially to chronicle the project from dry land, Kane quickly assumes a more integral role as a much-needed paddler, and as such he is able to provide vivid, first-hand descriptions of the treacherous water encountered. But in many ways the water is the least imposing obstacle to success. Along the way the team is beset by financial difficulties, a crisis of leadership, attacks from armed rebels, and the defection of team members. Kane's account of this six-month ordeal is much more than a travelogue of athletic endeavor--it's a fascinating portrait of the planning, politics, and personal struggles involved in mounting a modern-day expedition through a vast expanse of largely uncharted territory.

From Publishers Weekly

It was an ill-assorted multinational party of 10 men and one woman; their object was to run the 4200 miles of the Amazon, from a snowfield in the Peruvian Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. Kane was the only American in the group. Of the original 11, only four, Kane among them, reached the sea, six months after the start. This is a spine-tingling adventure narrative that leaves the reader eager to learn what next will befall these hapless travelers. They encountered extremes of weather, altitude sickness, suicidal rapids, armed guerrillas; they met Indians who had never encountered white people; they camped on the grounds of a cocaine factory. Kane gives a vivid account of running the rapids--some of the members were swept into the river, barely escaping death. It was a grueling journey and a historic one--this expedition was the first to paddle the entire length of the Amazon. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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Customer Reviews

One of the top adventure books I have read.
passedpawn
The book slows down when the river does, but is still interesting as Kane and his Polish partner kayak all the way to Belem.
Doctor.Generosity
I do remember the story being one hell of a ride--and, of course, the guerrilla gunfire section was unforgettable.
Marty Essen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on November 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Somebody had the dubious brainstorm of trying to find the source of the Amazon and follow it from a snowfield in the Peruvian Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. Of course when you're going to do something like that, you want a crackerjack team of people along to help out through the wild and dangerous spots, of which there are probably at least 2500 miles full of those two qualities along the 4200 mile journey. Whoever chose the team was smokin' something, because talk about your ill-assorted multinational party of eleven weirdos. Joe Kane, the sole American, came along as the journalist to document the whole affair - and he'd never paddled a whitewater canoe before in his life. His chances of even living thru the trip, let along being one of the four lone survivors (no, the others didn't all die; don't worry; they dropped out or were uninvited) were less than zero. Yet, improbably, he traveled every mile, even paddling thru wide still waters for days with a raging fever, and reached the Atlantic 6 months after beginning this odyssey.
He has an understated way of writing of his spine-tingling adventures that's particularly suited for high adventure, stuff like extremes of weather, kamikaze bugs, killer rapids, armed guerrillas, fights between the various factions of team members, knee-deep mud, native Indians who'd never seen a white man before (were they cannibals?), cocaine dealers, etc.
I read it twice and then even listened to it on book-on-tape, narrated by Kane himself.
Wonderful. Don't miss it. Then go immediately to your bookstore and buy Tracy Johnston's Shooting the Boh for a woman's take on a similar hairbrained adventure.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a story about 10 people who set out to run the Amazon River from the headwaters to the Atlantic Ocean (only 4 of them complete the entire trip). The author does a good job at describing the environment, interactions with the local people, and the adventures they encountered on the trip.
The first 177 pages describe the initial 700 miles of the journey; the other 100 pages describe the remaining 3500 miles of the expedition. When I was about 2/3 of the way through the book and learned that they had 3500 miles left to go, I wondered how the author could do justice to this large segment of travel in only 100 pages. I felt shortchanged. I'm not saying that the book had to be 1000 pages long, but I think that more should have been said about the 3500 miles.
The most exciting part was the whitewater rafting/kayaking through the Acobamba Abyss. Having rafted and kayaked before, I could really identify with their struggles. The author wrote in such a way that I could easily picture what was happening (there were some very intense moments). Being that a number of the team members had very little or no whitewater experience, I'm surprised that they survived this trip.
The author did a good job at describing the interaction among the expedition team members (this really added to the story). However, he was too lenient toward Francois Odendaal. Odendaal did not belong on the river at all and made for a very poor expedition leader.
I'm glad I bought the book. In my opinion, the writing style is good but not great. I did learn a lot about the countries and the people that border the river.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Kramer on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read "Running the Amazon" because my wife and I were participating in a cruise on the Amazon and an additional two days at the Explorama Lodge, all of our trip at the Peru end of the Amazon, basically in the Iquitos area. Also, my reading tendencies lean toward adventure descriptions, so "Running the Amazon" looked like a book I would finish.

It was so much more than an adventure book, although it certainly was that. - This is a personal description of the first expedition to begin in the snowfields of the Andes, at the continental divide, where the first trickle originates, all the way to the Atlantic - 4200 miles. I can imagine, well almost, how treacherous the white water must have been coming out of the Andes, based on how much water we saw flowing down the Amazon even at the junction of its two major tributaries in Peru where the river officially begins.

The majority of "Running the Amazon" takes place in Peru (even though in total miles the majority of the trip is in Brazil). I would estimate that 50% of the text is about the history of the area, mostly Peru, and the culture, past and present. Also, the author is pretty funny - intentionally or not - in how he describes the adventures of he and his colleagues. I have always wondered about the revolutionary group, Shining Path, and since the book is set in the late 1980s, a good description of the group and its history is provided.

Since Joe Kane is not a man who apparently had been a kayaker, or at least anything approaching a serious kayaker, prior to his journey, it makes his adventures more interesting to the average reader like myself, and this is true also for his descriptions of interpersonal difficulties among some of the expedition.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William Druschel on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
The "Time", or was it "Newsweek", review was wrong. This is an exciting, thrilling adventure full of human drama, insight and a look at a world 99% of US citizens know nothing about. I usually do not read books of this genre, but the "bad" review in one of the country's leading 'news' magazines was intriguing enough for me to order it from my local book store.

I was fascinated by Kane's descriptions of the local citizens in Peru with coca juice running out of their mouths, mile-high canyons where the sun can barely be seen, rebels shooting at them from cliff tops, to supposed head-hunters chasing them on the river.

This is one book where I am glad I did not follow the advice of a "professional" reviewer and ignore it. I enjoyed it so much, I gave my only copy to my mother, who put it into her retirement community's library for others to enjoy.
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