Recollections of Our Trip Up the Amazon

By Roy Rowan and Marc Rowan

Since reading The Sea and the Jungle at Dartmouth College in 1938, I have always been fascinated by the Amazon. Prior to this excursion with my youngest son, Marc, I reread that book from my college years and also “River of Doubt” about Teddy Roosevelt’s journey up the river. I had been to Brazil during a month-long tour of South America with my wife, Helen, in the sixties. I have vivid memories of flying into the Mattagraso on a single prop plane to stay at the Rockefeller ranch, but I have always dreamed of travelling up the Amazon.

Without even consulting me, Marc had called my personal physician six months ago to get his thoughts on my traveling to these parts. As Marc relayed to me later, my doctor started to laugh, saying, “Well, we would never expect anything easy from Roy!” Marc reminded him that I had had malaria, typhoid, and Yellow Fever in China in the 1940’s, so I might even be immune to these diseases resident on the Amazon. My doctor wryly countered, “Have you considered the Caribbean?” Marc a sured him that he had, and my doctor finally said, “If your dad wants to do the Amazon trip, I am fine with it…if you need a resident doctor, let me know!”

Things that have really struck me during the trip:

● The sight of pink dolphins swimming freely in the muddy waters.

● The vastness, the sheer size and width of the river in parts.

● The overwhelming smell of smoke – part of the consequences of burning the forest, largely illegally, to make way for farming or cultivation.

● How Brazil has the seventh-largest economy in the world, yet so much of the river basin is still in a primitive state, even the large cities, and largely unchanged since 30-50 years ago.

● Going up some of the tributaries of the Amazon on a side trip using an old-fashioned river boat that was reminiscent of Bogart and Hepburn’s “African Queen”;  the sound of the engine going “thump, thump, thump” as we investigated wildlife and were told that in the rainy season, much of the vast upland area in view on the horizon would be under water.

● How the river’s brown silt fans out far offshore into the blue Caribbean sea for miles.

Marc is now threatening to take me to China for my 96th birthday in February: my first trip was 70 years ago!