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Full Circle

Day 193: Pongo De Mainique, Urubamba River

Michael Palin - Full CircleAdolfo stands in the prow, feeling out depth with a stick, as Gustavo bounces the boat over a succession of increasingly high waves that back into us one after the other. As the river accelerates the forest on either side of us falls eerily quiet. Ahead of us the foothills of the Andes come to an end in a dark, mist-covered wall which there seems no way through.

Suddenly a remarkable thing happens. As we bob and bounce and slither towards the Pongo, Nigel's radio bursts into life and into the middle of the turbulent Urubamba comes a voice from Wembley. Barry screams at me over the sloshing and slopping of the water.

'Extra time! They're playing extra time!'

'Pongo! Pongo!' shouts Gustavo, pointing ahead.

A wall of rock sixty or seventy feet high materializes from the misty greyness.

'Eight minutes left!' yells Barry, as Gustavo searches the fast water for a route that will take us away from the rock without grounding on the gravel beds and flipping us over. There is something quite ridiculously coincidental that two of my great loves, travel and football, should thus converge; that, at the very moment we enter one of the most potentially dangerous passages of this nine-month journey, England should be playing for their life. El Tel and me, both in a dug-out.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 193
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Pongo de Manaique rapids
  • Book page no: 262

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