Rivers to See Before You Die
Jeremy Wade's Travel & Fishing Tips
Top Tips on Travel, Survival and Monsters That See You As Dinner...
1. The Amazon. Take a boat from Belém, at the river mouth, to Manaus. Five days traveling day and night, and you're not even halfway up the main river. Then go up one of the tributaries, and explore a backwater creek - another two to four weeks, if you're lucky. This is the only way to fully appreciate the sheer size of the world's greatest river system.
2. The Ganges. From snow-capped Himalayas to the scorching heat of the Indian plains, all human life is here. But, like too many of the world's rivers, the underwater life barely is clinging to survival.
3. The Colorado in the Grand Canyon. Mind blowing by all accounts but one I've yet to see.
4. The Congo. Hopefully the two events (seeing the river and dying) won't be linked - although this has to be one of the world's most dangerous regions for outsiders and for the people who live there.
5. The River Near You. A hidden world awaits you just a short journey from where you live.
Five River Monsters That See You As Dinner
1. Piranhas. Only if they're hungry and sometimes the boot is on the other foot - when I've been hungry, I've been known to reduce a piranha to a skeleton in a matter of seconds. Amazonians say that a soup made from piranhas works as an aphrodisiac.
2. Candiru. This vampire-like Amazonian fish, which is about the length of a toothpick, normally burrows into the gills of a larger fish where it enjoys a liquid feast of its host's blood. But sometimes it makes a mistake and burrows into a human orifice. Because it has barb-like, backward-pointing spines on its gill covers, it can't extricate itself and can only be removed by delicate surgery.
3. Bullshark. Most sea fish can't survive in rivers - they absorb water, and their body cells burst. But thanks to a fiendishly clever way of controlling the amount of salt in its body and the ability to excrete surplus water, this species of shark can swim and feed hundreds of miles inland.
4. Goonch Catfish. People living beside Himalayan rivers say this toothy predator feeds on human remains from riverside funeral pyres. On one river, they say a supersized specimen is taking live human prey.
5. Goliath Tigerfish. This giant cousin of the piranha can grow six feet long and over one hundred pounds in weight and will even bite pieces out of crocodiles. Fishermen say they will snack on the dangling extremities of unwary swimmers or paddlers, and some
attacks have been fatal.
Five Things You Need to Survive in the Amazon
1. Anti-Malarial Precautions. I would start with long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, anti-malarial tablets and a mosquito net. It's sometimes the smallest animals that are the most dangerous - certainly the case for the microscopic Plasmodium parasite, which kills nearly a million people worldwide every year.
2. Basic Portuguese. Brazil's national language is Portuguese (the only major country in South America that's primary language is not Spanish). It'll help you in the central part of the Amazon in Brazil. In the 'interior,' nobody speaks English.
3. Good Humor and Common Sense. These two attributes will stand you in good stead in any situation in an unfamiliar environment. But you should always take care not to offend local sensibilities in places where customs and manners are different.
4. Keeping Your Money Invisible. An Amazonian friend of mine told me about a foreigner who was robbed about $1,500 in a riverside town where he arrived after paddling down river by wooden canoe, staying in fishermen's huts along the way. Some of the people he had stayed with were outraged when they heard about the robbery. "If we'd known he had that much money, we'd have killed him and thrown him in the river," they told my friend.
5. Basic Fishing Rod and Reel. Many people in the Amazon literally live 'hand to mouth,' and they won't tolerate your company for long unless you can earn your keep. Besides that, fishing is also a universal language and is a great way to participate in everyday life and get to know people.