“Think I saw a ship passing in the far horizon” Says Misha. We keep staring and within long something gigantic appears on the horizon: An Oil Tanker, by far the largest ship we have seen for the last 2 months on the river. So that must be the Amazon, The Mighty Amazon River, “our planet’s super-river” as BBC Earth calls it. Dig some of these facts:
The Amazon River collects rainwater from an area of 7 mio. km2. That’s nearly half the size of South America or the size of Australia. Or 163 times larger than Denmark. No wonder it is dwarfing all other rivers on our planet.
It carries more water than the next 7 largest rivers combined. Combined, mind you. That’s a discharge of 209.000.000 liters per second, a fifth of the total riverflow on our planet.
The Amazon river is between 2 and 10km wide for the most part. That means you barely can see the other shoreline with trees. Downstream, as more tributary rivers join it and wet-season is pouring rain, it swells to more than 50km of width: an open sea with waves, storms, tides and all. At the mouth, an estuary, The Amazon spans an impressive 250+km wide. The River Sea, it is rightfully called.
It hosts more than 3000 different species of fish. That is more than the entire Atlantic Ocean.
The longest river on Earth? Maybe. They are still arguing this, as several independent geographical researchers claim that it is up to 6900km long, and not 6400+km as is commonly accepted. The Nile is generally considered the longest river and runs for about 6650km. Most Brazilians would likely claim that Amazon is the longest, while Egyptians will stand their ground with their current “longest river” claim, The Nile. Something to do with different measurement technics apparently. I don’t think they’ll ever agree, and to me it doesn’t matter much: The Amazon and the Nile are both two staggeringly long rivers
More than 1100 tributary rivers flow into The Amazon. 17 of those are more than 1500km long. Rio Negro, the biggest tributary, is wider than the Amazon itself and would be in the top 10 of rivers in its own right. Her black waters merge with the brown waters of the Amazon at Manaus in Brazil, creating a “watercolor-mix” visible from space.
And the darkest, deepest, weirdest fact of them all:
In 2011 it was discovered that The Amazon has an gigantic underground twin-river, equilly as impressive as the Amazon itself: The Hamza flows in a similar pattern as the Amazon but 4000 meters deep inside the Earths crust. It spans an astronomical width of 200km to 400km but flows with an eternal peace: a mere millimeter per second or 4 meters per hour. Imagine floating down The Hamza…
There is surely something otherworldly and magical about this Mother of all Rivers, The Amazon.
So we very gently float into the Amazon River at slow, slow speed. That’s fine. Say goodbye to Rio Napo, the river that has transported us for a thousand kilometers from Ecuador to Peru and now are about to merge with the largest river on Earth. The mouth of the Napo River flows extremely slowly into the Amazon and we are excited to see how the Amazon it self flows. Drifting into the middle of the Amazon and we can see the shore flying past us from far away. Our GPS says we are doing 9 km/h and sometimes even 11+ km/h. We are flying, and flying very safe indeed: The Amazon is so incredibly wide, at least 2km, and we are perfectly safe from the dangerous shore. Should we drift near it, our newly installed engine can quickly get us out of trouble: a “right” we have painfully earned after floating un-engined only with oars for the first month to reach the Amazon.
And we have electricity. It is a hugely magnificent discovery, a commodity that has been scarce for the last 3 years of my life, cycling around the world. For the last month, we haven’t had any electricity and it’s all fine. But when it is there, it is nice: A bit of light in the evening, maybe music, charge camera batteries, write book on laptop. We have a beautiful 100W solarpanel and some car batteries to store the sun’s rich, warm waves. We considered buying a generator, but here is our conclusion: a) An engine-generator is noisy, no beautiful quite evenings if the generator is running. b) It’s much cheaper than a solar panel, but if you run your generator just 2 hours per day, the solar panel will pay itself off after just 6 months. Gasoline for the generator is a constant, permanent cost, the sun isn’t.
So with our engine, our solar panel and a huge, fast Amazon River, life is really wonderful. We progress fast and in our happy situation we insist on floating through the night, all night, all safe, for sure. It was safe. I got a weird fever and didn’t assist very much in the night-floating, I was fairly convinced I had contracted malaria or dengue-fever, but a day later everything was fine. Misha and Peycho took turns to watch our night-progress and as I woke up at 6.00 in the morning, we are arriving in the oldest Peruvian Amazonian Town: Pebas, a Jesuit-mission town from 1735, deep inside the green, wild jungle. Surrounded by Tribal people that the Spanish Jesuits were there to convert to Catholicism. They succeeded to some extent, but most of the endless green jungle that you’ll find here is inhabited by tribal communities: The Boras, The Huitotos, The Yaguas, The Ocainas and the Tikunas. They are semi-modernized, but still speak their own language, fish, farm, forage and engage in their ceremonial traditions when called for. An elected mayor is the official representative to the national government, but they operate with an elderly member of a certain family to be the “cultural chief”, known as the “Curaca”. The Curaca lives in a Maloka, which is a huge traditional, communal house. Sounds like something I need to see.
We are out to meet these people: To venture upstream some smaller tributary rivers to look at nature and these semi-modernized tribes.