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Full Circle

Day 196: Up the Urubamba to Sepahua

Camisea River, Peru 
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Children on the Camisea River.
Michael Palin - Full CircleFifth night under canvas. Food is running short. No more bacon and egg breakfasts. Bread rolls hard as pebbles. Worse still, only one box of Chilean Red for next two nights. 'Banana Quit,' says Barry suddenly, looking up from his coffee. For a moment I think he must have cracked, but he's pointing across at the edge of the jungle. 'Can you hear it?'

The Urubamba is growing wider and more middle-aged as we move north, out of Matsiguenga and into Piro tribal territory.

By late afternoon we have reached the mouth of a narrow creek in which the town of Sepahua is situated. There is a table on the beach where we want to make camp and behind it sit two young soldiers, the T-shirt of whose uniforms announce them as members of the Batalia Contrasubversivo. They are obliged to search all river craft coming in to Sepahua for smuggling in general and drugs in particular. The sun beats down on us as we wait for Barry to talk them round, show the right papers, etc. Evidently this is not enough and they demand an inspection of the bags before they will allow us onto their bit of sand.

Sepahua might well have been the town Colonel Percy Fawcett, the explorer who died in the Amazon in the fifties, was referring to when he talked about 'the sort of place that looks a dump on the way in and a metropolis on the way back'. It is a town of no great beauty but after six days on the river the mere fact that it contains a bar with chairs, tables and cold beer is enough to give it an air of Parisian sophistication.

Clem's back is giving him increasing discomfort and he is now seriously immobilized. Though we have to return to the sandbanks for another night in tents we cannot stay on the river much longer.

Tonight fork and sheet lightning split the western sky. Thunder rumbles, coming closer. The air is more humid here and the insects are giving us their full attention.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 196
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Sepahua
  • Book page no: 267

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