Tuesday, January 25, 2011

East bound on the Amazon

It takes us days to follow the Amazon river east out to the Atlantic ocean. And all the while the ship is enveloped in the thick smell of rain and jungle. We cut through showers so thick that we have to slow down blinded, then speed up again beneath towering cumuli, crying out in amazement that the Amazon has beaches like Greek islands.

Whenever we stop – to disembark a pilot, to wait for something that the captain knows about but the engineers can only guess at – canoes pull off the banks towards us. Four kids approach us slowly. Shouldn’t you be in school? we shout in English first, then Portuguese, but the kids stare at us silently. Two men come in from behind and try to climb on board through the bunker break. We ward them off. The kids stare and say nothing.

The coasts diverge and fall away but the yellow mud is still around us. Geographically we’re on the Atlantic again, but the water we drift in is still that of the river. Then the ship gets picked up by the swell that rolls in freely from the east. We head south towards the equator and the water turns to glass.

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