Travel Story 

Napo River, headwaters of the Amazon

Page 4 of 4

Delfin’s neighbour pours me a glass. It burns all the way down and leaves me gasping. "Very strong," he says proudly.

Skirting his neighbour’s cane-field Delfin picks up a trail screened from the sun by an impenetrable canopy of epiphite-covered branches and hanging vines. We come to a stream and follow it up past a series of small waterfalls. Delfin stops at one of the plunge-pools and pulls a gold pan from a niche in the rock. Scooping fine gravel from the creek bed we take turns panning. Every pan yields a few more flakes of gold, each carefully added to a vile that is left with the pan.

Delfin explains that he is collecting the gold for some more dental work and proudly shows us the crowns previously fashioned from his own gold.

Our route gets steeper – each waterfall higher than the last until the way is blocked by a 10-metre cliff. The stream cascades into a shallow plunge-pool where we strip down and let the cool, refreshing water cascade over our bodies.

This is what Delfin is striving to preserve – a small corner of the vast Amazon Basin as it was before the devastating impact of mining, logging, and land-clearing fires. I hope he makes it.

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