Transamazonica, Day 49 – The Long Climb

We left Pozuzo this morning to press ahead through the high valleys and jungle of the Andes. Gentle slopes, a gravel road and cool temperatures made for a wonderful cycle.

And then the rise began: an energy-sucking, heart-pumping incline which we fought against as the sun set and night settled in. With miles left before our destination of Tarma, we had no choice but to embrace the punishing climb and just go with it.

I’ve had many experiences like this in my past. After a while, you learn to switch off somehow, to let your legs and lungs and heart do the work while your mind drifts. And that’s exactly what my mind did as the rest of me machined along up the mountain.

I reminisced. There was plenty of material. Starting from the Atlantic Ocean, we’ve travelled through an immense part of the Amazon: cycling, sitting on boats, on tiny planes, meeting some of the most wonderful people in the world.

I also looked back to how I had been before this journey started – in particular, how naïve. I had read and read and read while I was back in London, but I knew nothing about the Amazon compared to what I now know. And that’s just from being here for a couple of months.

I know it’s a cliché to say, but my experience here has genuinely changed me. I came here with the preconception of seeing virgin forest and colourful tribes. However, what I’ve seen has been man vs nature and the complicated issues that surround indigenous peoples. Saving the rainforest is not as black and white as we think.

The way I want to tell stories has also changed. My usual expeditions have only ever really told my own story. But, to be honest, I’m quite bored of stories about me. I want to tell the stories of others from now on, of those whose stories not only deserve to be told, not only need to be told, but demand it.

And that is, I realised as I cycled up that mountain, exactly what Transamazonica needs to be. Not the story of me travelling through the Amazon. But the story of the Amazon itself, and the stories of all those who live here – not just the lucky few who get to pass through.

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