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Continueing the Rio Negro

Posted in: Expedition colombia
Preparations in Mitú
Our Amazon expedition began in the small enclave of Mitú, nestled in Colombia's Vaupés region. This town, the cleanest border town I have ever seen in Colombia, sits at the heart of the Amazon rainforest. With regular temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius and humidity levels often surpassing 85%, Mitú was a place where the air itself seemed alive with the rainforest's pulse.
We spent several days in Mitú arranging a local guide, acquiring a dugout canoe, and gathering essential supplies such as farina, fruit, and the beloved Colombian sweet, bocadillo. The town was predominantly inhabited by indigenous people, with a few families from Medellín running the primary businesses, including hotels, pharmacies, and small stores.
The Dugout Canoe: An Unexpected Challenge
With our preparations complete, we secured a dugout canoe for a reasonable fee of $150 USD. This modest vessel was meant to be our primary mode of transport along the Rio Negro. Excited to begin, we set off the following day, loading our 35 kilograms of gear, ourselves, and a single paddle into the canoe. 
As we ventured into the centre of the river, disaster struck. The canoe, far too small for our load, capsized almost immediately. In those frantic moments, as the river swallowed us, I experienced the closest brush with death I have ever had. Despite my previous life-threatening experiences, both in expeditions and otherwise, this was a matter of mere seconds. On returning to the UK, I have since made it a point to swim at every opportunity, a testament to how profoundly this incident affected me.
A New Plan and an Unforeseen Turn
Survival instincts kicked in, and we quickly realised the need for a new plan. We decided to seek the help of a Brazilian boat captain who could navigate the river more safely. The arrangement was straightforward: we would provide him with 15 gallons of fuel in exchange for his services. This captain, Reynaldo, was a local from the community of Tainá, and his request for gasoline was reasonable, considering the logistics.
With the help of our pastor and ex-rebel friend, we secured the fuel. This former FARC rebel, who had turned his life around to become a preacher, was instrumental in our planning. He agreed to purchase the gasoline on our behalf, making the necessary arrangements for us to meet Reynaldo in a few days.
The Hike to the River Community

While waiting for our rendezvous, we embarked on a 10-mile hike to another part of the river, where we found a small community. This journey was both physically demanding and spiritually enriching. We documented various plants, learned a lot about each other, and spent two nights camping and eating local food. The local hospitality and the opportunity to immerse ourselves in their way of life were among the most enjoyable parts of the expedition so far.
Meeting Reynaldo and the Unexpected Twist
As planned, local people from the community offered to take us downriver to meet our new guide, Reynaldo. We had met him earlier in the week, and he seemed well-prepared to assist us. However, unbeknownst to me, the real challenges were about to begin. Theft, abandonment, and the verge of hypothermia awaited us, turning what had been an enjoyable part of the expedition into a test of endurance and survival.
Theft and Abandonment
Upon arriving at the designated meeting spot, we realised something was amiss. The gasoline, which was supposed to secure our passage, had disappeared. Whether it was the work of the three drunken locals we had encountered or a more sinister plan orchestrated by the pastor or a former rebel, (I THINK SO) we never found out. The feeling of betrayal and the stark realisation of our vulnerability hit hard. Stranded and with dwindling resources, we had to reassess our situation quickly.
Reflection and Resolve
Looking back, these initial weeks in the Amazon were filled with profound lessons. The close brush with death, the betrayal, and the harsh realities of the jungle tested us in ways we hadn't anticipated. Yet, these challenges also forged a deeper resolve within us. The experiences so far were merely a prelude to the six-week journey that lay ahead, a journey through the heart of the Amazon that promised to be as unpredictable as it was unforgettable.

As we awaited the next phase of our expedition, I reflected on the myriad experiences and encounters that had already shaped this adventure. The journey had tested our limits, but it also revealed the resilience and strength within us. Despite the setbacks, the true essence of our adventure was yet to unfold. The real expedition was just beginning.