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Solo Expedition Part I: A Dangerous Dream

A  dangerous dream led me to a Peruvian  Police Station

Journal entry. Lima, Peru June 1989:

'I want to help save the rainforests, so I'm on my way to the jungle. I'm going over the Andes to the Amazon River on a solo expedition to build a Balsa Wood Raft and float down the river through the rainforests, meeting Indians and dining on Piranha as I go along.

If I can do this thing only dreamed, then I can lead others on a much larger expedition.

I want to show the world the magnificence of the rainforests and to display the wonders of their life. So all may see what nature gives to humanity, and be encouraged to live sustainably and happily on our planet for a long time to come.

However, Peru is a very dangerous place. The Shining Path have been murdering tourists lately.'

The plane arrived at 3.30 a.m. and by 4.00 I was in a Taxi on my way to my hotel. Even in the dead of night, the streets were crowded. Political slogans and graffiti was everywhere. Factory walls were covered with razor-wire and had bunkers for armed guards with machine guns pointed to the streets as if they were expecting an attack. It was even scarier than I thought it would be. Before I had taken a step out of the taxi towards the four-star Hotel Crillon, which I had prebooked to give me a sense of security, I was surrounded by four, heavily armed guards in flak jackets. Their job was to get me into the hotel without me being mugged or murdered. I was beginning to think that my friends who had told me that I was going to get killed were right – I was going to get killed.

The next day when I went to walk out of the hotel the guards and doormen, fearing for my life, begged me to take a taxi. They must have thought I was crazy. I understood their concern. A crowd of nefarious individuals were gathered outside and it dawned on me that staying in a fancy hotel might not be such a good idea. I felt like a target for every robber and mugger in the city. I was nervous, but I had to get used to my surroundings. Where I was going, to the outer reaches of 'civilization' with its abject poverty and the lust for gold that was driving the destruction of the rainforests, promised to be much worse.

So many people were wandering the streets that I could not concentrate on what I saw in shop windows. I would always be watching the reflection of the glass to see if anyone was about to attack me from behind. The reason for my concern was real. The only tourists I met had real horror stories. One Swiss guy told me of how he and a friend first had some ruffians try to snatch their hip bags. When that did not succeed, the same thugs came at them with baseball bats to get what they wanted!

A Dangerous Dream Like Scene in a Lima Church
Sign of the times? Found in the Catacombs of Lima

The President was not taking any chances either. Huge black tanks and fearsome stormtroopers surrounded his palace. The troopers wore the same deadly black as the tanks, and radiated intimidation from behind reflective visors set in sinister black helmets.

On the rare occasion the reflective visors were raised, I saw eyes deadly and black. Cold as Ice. Cold as Death. When I looked into those eyes, I preferred the reality of the muggers on the street.

After a few days, I settled in and was ready to leave the comfort zone of the four-star hotel to venture into the wilderness. I caught a plane to Cuzco where I learned some useful Spanish. Before we took off the air hostess came along and said to the guy next to me, "Senor. Armas por favor".

With not a care in the world, he reached into his jacket and gave her his gun.

Solo Expedition Part II: Over the Andes into the Amazon



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