Our adventure had come to an end.
We had already made up our minds, before we arrived: Manaus will be the last stop of our raft. It didn’t make sense to continue down the Amazon River for another 1500km: The Amazon was now a gigantic river with lots of ship traffic and large cities to come. Farms and towns were all-too-common along the riverbank. The intimacy with nature seemed lost and to continue down the Amazon River seemed almost pointless. It also felt too monotonous: sitting on the raft in the middle of the river, waiting for days to go by. The physical challenges, the indigenous people, the virgin jungle and the isolated river-sections seemed to be a thing of the past. Now, it felt more like transport. Life on the raft had gotten almost too easy. And when life gets too easy, it is time to do something else. Complacency kills the mind.
We did consider to continue upstream the Rio Negro in our own motorboat for 1800km, connect with the Orinoco basin and the large Orinoco River, float into Venezuela and arrive at the western-most part of the Caribbean Sea. There is no way of denying that it would have been an intense adventure but it somehow wasn’t something that draw us in: Our raft is too heavy to push upstream the Rio Negro, so we would have had to continue in a smaller boat, motor driven: It would have been noisy and far less comfortably but we would have had the option to go where we wanted and explore the small tributaries. However, in wasn’t the raft, La Balsa, that we had built ourselves and lived on for the last 4 months.
Motorboat adventure? Maybe some other day. For now, if the raft stops, we stop.
I’ve felt it before, the anti-climax. It is such a frustrating feeling, I have to admit. You’re supposed to experience a rush of feelings from all angles: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Instead, you feel nothing. I tend to think that our minds can’t deal with the turmoil of feelings in these anticipated climax situations. So the mind is experiencing a ”stage-fright” and simple collapses into a black hole: it overloads and closes down instead of processing. So that’s how I felt when we arrived in Manaus: nothing. And I know that I felt nothing because I felt everything.
So I sat there on our raft and drank some beers. Staring at the absurdity of the scene and our damaged, lovely raft. Our home for the last 4 months had reached its destination and was now parked in-between wooden, brazilian cargo-boats and poor families on houseboats in dire conditions. Captains and crew, homeless and drunks were our neighbors. Somehow, we fitted in. The feelings slowly encroached on me: We are done, that is outright amazing and painfully terrible, I want to cry and scream. That cocktail of sadness and happiness began to cook and I wanted to be alone. The “feel nothing” of the anti-climax was dissolving and I could feel the emotions gaining ground. A smile with a desire to destroy something, maybe myself, maybe the world. More than ever, I wanted be alone.
I checked into a cheap hostel, which felt more like a castle: There were showers, toilets and real mattresses. Rocket-fast internet, free breakfast and tourists from foreign countries. TVs. I felt good and I felt alive. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. And surely did not want to talk about the Raft, as I barely understood it myself. I walked the dimly lit streets of Manaus to buy some food before I, instinctively, swung around and headed towards the raft. My legs carried me towards the dubious area around Manaus Port where our raft was parked. The area where the guide-book tells you not to go after dark. Image where my life had been if I had followed the many “guidebooks” of life: what to do and what not to do. Finally, I smiled. A big, honest smile for everything that the raft had taught me and a smile for the intensity of life. I felt extremely happy and privileged to have been through the adventure that we had now finished. And I smiled because I knew that I would never, never ever, forget these months on our raft. We sat there, the three of us: Misha, Peycho and Henrik. I understood that my emotional turmoil was centered around these two individuals, just as much as it was centered around the raft. Together, we had invested a lot of effort in this raft-adventure. Our lives, actually. We talked and smoked and drinked and laughed and somehow said goodbye to eachother that evening, without knowing it.
We had built a bamboo raft with an indigenous family in Ecuador and floated 4 months and 3000km through 3 countries, sucking up everything that the adventure had thrown at us: Amazon tribes, untouched jungle, an unpredictable river, complete isolation, violent crashes in the black jungle night, fear of pirates, machineguns and tropical storms on the largest river on Earth. A wild idea had been transformed into an adventure that was now behind us. I stood to take a cup of water from our watertank on the raft. Our own harvested rainwater from the skies of the rainforest. Soon, water would be coming from plastic bottles. We would be absorbed back into civilization. The Raft would be only a memory. That was probably the hardest part to accept.
And, finally, I gained the clarity to understand that I was happy, not despite of, but because I was sad.