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Running the Amazon Paperback – May 12, 1990
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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The voyage began in the lunar terrain of the Peruvian Andes, where coca leaf is the only remedy against altitude sickness. It continued down rapids so fierce they could swallow a raft in a split second. It ended six months and 4,200 miles later, where the Amazon runs gently into the Atlantic. Joe Kane's personal account of the first expedition to travel the entirety of the world's longest river is a riveting adventure in the tradition of Joseph Conrad, filled with death-defying encounters: with narco-traffickers and Sendero Luminoso guerrillas and nature at its most unforgiving. Not least of all, Running the Amazon shows a polyglot group of urbanized travelers confronting their wilder selves -- their fear and egotism, selflessness and courage.
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Running the Amazon is a page turner. I ordered it from Amazon, started to read and could not put it down. Kane was attached to an expedition of ten, mostly Europeans, who planned to raft the Amazon from its headwaters high in the Peruvian Andes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, 4200 miles. Kane gives a vivid narrative of the country they pass, the locals they encounter - including armed Sendero Luminoso Maoist guerillas - and the divisive relationships within the expedition. The effort was poorly planned and the team badly organized. Some members were world class white water experts while others - including the expedition organizer and Kane himeself - were unskilled or even complete novices. Their lives were put at risk thereby. The upper Apurimac river is one of the most violent and dangerous cascades in the world; Class Five does not begin to grade it. About half the international whitewater expeditions over the past fifty years have lost members by drowning, some within minutes of putting boat to water. From Kane's account, it seems clear he and others should have died on the river, and narrowly escaped several times by sheer good fortune. Only four of ten made it to the Atlantic six months from the start. The book slows down when the river does, but is still interesting as Kane and his Polish partner kayak all the way to Belem. A thrilling story and classic of outdoor adventure. Highly recommended.
Kane is a passionate advocate for native peoples and wild lands, and I was disappointed that he appears to have abandoned serious writing after the two books. His career now is administrator of a land trust and environmental organization in Olympia, Washington. Thanks for your books Joe and best wishes.