This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Twenty-eight Hours of Sleepless Memories

Posted from: San Lorenzo
We stopped for a couple of hours during the night for Gerson to rest after we collided with another log and he had to maneuver to get it off the point of the boat. I was lying down with my barrel and the kicking kid listening to the sounds of the jungle and somebody snoring.

'The places you find yourself,' I thought. 'Funny life...I'm so hungry...I wish Zubin hadn't mentioned manchego cheese...I shouldn't write to this man, he is clearly not interested...why am I so shy - it's my parents' fault, they never turned up at that play in school...And a number of unconnected thoughts that carried on over 28 hours (that's what happens when you don't have any music).'

Almu on the boat journey to Wijint

I also thought of the beginning of the trip in the Andes, how difficult it was to breathe there, how I decided to get married at the source of the Amazon even if I had to bring the guests on llamas and provide them with oxygen bottles.

I thought of us waking up at 4am in the freezing cold, me trying to wash inside my sleeping bag with my hot water bottle. I thought of Rodolfo, Gladys, Rosmary, little Icka and their alpacas, how they adopted us with so much love and gave us intestine soup.

I thought of Jenny and her humble family of coca growers. The cataracts on her young crying eyes when I said goodbye. I thought of chewing coca with her and playing with her kitten by the fire whilst her husband said that he would kill anybody coming to destroy their coca.

I thought of going on a police raid with the unexpectedly sweet commandant Jaimito and falling asleep out of tiredness whist his men were running with their machine guns "taking the bridge".

I thought of the "governor" of Luisiana and his dream of bringing electricity to the deprived coca region, like bringing the ferrocarril in a western film.

I thought of Matt getting ill, the team sitting by his side on a mattress on the floor during that endless night waiting for the helicopter. I thought of the immense happiness when he was back being himself in that hospital in Lima.

I thought of bathing in the river in the Red Zone, with my Ashaninka friend Ruth and my Italian anthropologist friend Emily, and having been with men up until then and having finally a girly moment between women of different worlds.

I thought of the idyllic Ashaninka village, with its wonderful laughing people in its colourful cushmas, hiding the sadness of the night confessions by the fire about the violent times of the Shining Path. I thought of the little ill baby, Roger.

I thought of the Nuns of the Mission plotting a plan in the candlelight to help us when the Achuar community wasn't accepting us. And the "Inca" sister Berta, who distills her own "nun juice" and bases her distillation devices in visions given by Ayahuasca.

I thought of her telling me to recover my spiritual life, whatever I wanted to call God, and find strength in that. And the thoughts went on for 28 hours on this slow boat without cushions, interrupted by the collision of logs, Gerson's swearing and the occasional kick in the head.

Find out more about Matt Brandon's illness and emergency evacuation from the jungle


  • 1.
  • At 10:06 AM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • Maureen Norman (Matt's mum) wrote:

We really enjoyed that, Almu - it was really moving and you seem to have got so much out of this trip!

  • 2.
  • At 10:13 AM on 05 Feb 2008,
  • elchanco wrote:

i enjoyed your blog...very dream like!!!

  • 3.
  • At 04:20 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • rosie wrote:

amazing blog almu, you write so sensitively....wonderful!

  • 4.
  • At 11:10 PM on 25 Feb 2008,
  • Toni Kennedy wrote:

We met Willow at her "office" at Hotel San Antonio Abad after returning from a "touristy" trip to the Amazon. She told me what she was working on and gave this website. I've been following since, and find it totalling absorbing...and , Almu, your blog is absolutely riveting, and hope it's included as a voiceover in the finished film

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites