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Full Circle

Day 192: On the Urubamba River

Urubamba River, Peru 
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The Urubamba adventure begins.
Michael Palin - Full CircleAs the boats are being loaded the crews' families sit on the bank on a long driftwood bough offering advice and encouragement and frequently dissolving into raucous and inexplicable laughter. Perhaps Barry senses my apprehension. 'They're the best, absolutely the best,' he says, as if reassuring both of us. He indicates the crew.

Before we leave we are given life-jackets which we are asked to wear at all times. Laden to the gunwales (one boat looks as though it could sink under the weight of our drinking water alone) we cast off onto the waters of the Urubamba, which are a couple of hundred yards wide at this point and running fast enough over the rocks to throw up a lot of white water. We swing into a sharp bend and the waving relatives disappear quickly from sight.

We haven't gone far before Gustavo heads us in to a sandspit and moors up. Much shouting and gesticulating. A bit early for a mutiny, surely? It turns out he has done a very good deal on a week's supply of mandarin oranges from a local man, who happens to be his cousin. These are duly loaded and the boat sinks a little further.

Barry, who reckons we have three hours to go before reaching what he calls 'serious water', is beginning to take on the look of a little boy let loose in a sweet shop. His binoculars rarely leave his face as he scans the forest.

'Military Macaws,' he announces, pointing high overhead. 'Good sighting.'


'It's not that they're rare, it's that they're an "indicator species". They indicate the healthiness of the forest, so if we've got macaws it means the forest is in good condition.'
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 192
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Urubamba River
  • Book page no: 260

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