A fine, old-fashioned adventure yarn about a hellacious raft trip down the Amazon, told with wide-eyed brio.
The idea was for young madman Angus and his two chums to cross South America from the Pacific to the Atlantic, first by trekking through the Peruvian high desert into the Andes, where they would start a journey down the Amazon from its headwaters. The three choose to begin on Apurimac River, the Amazon’s longest known tributary and a plausible contender as the great river's source, but getting to it nearly kills them; they badly misjudge the amount of water they need. Mind you, almost the entire raft trip poses near-fatal threats. Angus brings a charming, openhearted thirst for adventure to the proceedings, which he frames as a daily log—nicely polished, presumably thanks to Mulgrew. These pages don’t feature a lot of introspection, but they’re also refreshingly free of portentousness, favoring slam-bang episodes of suicidal behavior laced with doses of humor. (After nearly dying of thirst in the desert, one fellow observes of the ratty pool they finally find, “Tastes like shit, mates. The question is, Will it kill me?”) Riding the river on rubber whitewater raft can only be compared to entering a Maytag washer set to spin cycle. One fierce dunking follows another: “Everything went white and quiet. The screams disappeared. So did the world. I realized I was holding my breath and being sucked down.” The three display ingenuity and surprising resourcefulness, approaching each vicious cataract with a loony gameness (“It was doable, we decided”) and meeting lots of folks who think they are insane (“He spoke to us as if he considered us retarded”). Slower days on the lower river are not as much fun.
The kind of journey that makes the reader's armchair feel particularly warm and snug.