4th December 2017
The Amazon River, somewhere near Iquitos, Peru.
It’s quiet. The Sun has not quite come up yet. The sky is overcast and back-lit by the pre-dawn light. It’s cool, and I slightly regret not having brought a jacket.
Victoria and I descend carefully down the muddy embankment into the waiting boat. The boat is something like an oversized canoe, with a cushioned bench running along either side, and a roof thatched with palm leaves for cover. Freddy, the boatman, sits at the back, ready to man the outboard motor.
Julio extends a hand to each of us as we come down, worried we’ll slip into the water. The embankment is eroding, and even where we have been standing long cracks running the length of the bank are widening where the next layer of soil will soon crumble and fall.
I’m not used to being assisted by men – which I realise is a kind of First World Problem. I place my hand in Julio’s to acknowledge his gesture but place no weight in it, as I descend the steep muddy path carefully. A First World Princess, I think to myself wryly.
I sit down near the prow of the boat, opposite Victoria. Julio pushes the craft out into the water from the embankment, stepping in as it breaks free of the thick mud and starts drift out into open water. Freddy wraps a cord around the shaft of the motor and pulls a few times before it splutters into life and pierces the silence like a lawnmower on a Sunday morning. We’re off.