Good news: it looks like we may have found our third man. The deed's not done quite yet. We are awaiting approval by Marciano Riva Oyarce, Director of Tourism of Loreto, and someone who holds much sway in the area. Our mystery third man is one of his employees. But let's backtrack a little.
Our shortlist (until early this morning) consisted of three people, all of whom more or less fitted the bill (the emphasis on 'more or less'). The first, a Peruvian, seemed perfect: an ex-SAS who speaks both Spanish and Portuguese, and spent 18 months training with the Israeli Special Forces. Alas, he ventured out into the jungle eight days ago and hasn't been seen since.
Our second candidate was a big American lad, here in Iquitos on a spiritual quest. He is nice enough and would make for a good team player, no doubt. He also looks tough enough. Yet when, midway through the interview, he told us he had seen UFOs - not once but multiple times, and not one UFO but two, circling his head, and that his friend had seen them too - we decided to take a rain check.
Our third candidate, yet another American, had been described to us as the kind of guy 'that if you got stranded in the jungle in nothing but your bollock, he'd be the person to get you out of there'. Reassuringly, he only ever makes one promise: to get you to where you want to go safely. Fine. He's a Vietnam vet and licensed to carry arms. His weapon of choice is a Glock, his price $100 per day plus cold beer from dawn to dusk, and the freedom to tell and retell his Vietnam tales. Come to find out that he has also been formally sectioned (declared mentally deranged by the none other than the US military, who are paying him $3000 a month to stay well away).
Until this morning, he was a quite serious consideration. After all, it'd make for good film footage and hopefully a good laugh on occasion. What put us off wasn't his state of mind but his age: now into his 70s, while still fit, his ticker might not cope with the 12-hours-per-day of exercising, and if not, how do you explain a corpse when stopped midway through the Rio Amazonas? (Can't very well fling the damn thing overboard.)
At wits end, Patti came to our rescue once more: might we be interested in taking one of her colleagues along? He's fit, he's big, he speaks the lingo, his English is brilliant, he's young, mellow, and keen. She arranged for us to meet his boss pronto. The dust hasn't yet settled on this early-morning meeting and Anton and I are blogging about it. If this works out, the decision has much going for it: the world record will be shared with a Peruvian (it is their river after all), it helps put Loreto and its lovely people on the map, it will help add boat speed (which we badly need to make up for lost time), and it will reduce risk (with someone on board who can explain what we do and why, and help negotiate overnight 'mooring rights' with local villagers).
Adventuring is a strange beast: so much planning and yet so little of one's plans ever really pan out, and what is key instead is flexibility and improvisation and humility and, well, simply being nice. What happens only ever happens because fellow human beings make them happen. Adventuring's pretty much as simple as that. The difficulty is that their assistance cannot always be reciprocated and so how many variations of 'thank you' are there?
We're off to buy a local kid a new tyre for his wheel chair. He's been without one for a while because his parents can't afford a new one. Silly thing only costs about the equivalent of two cups of overpriced Starbucks. We do this not because we're angels - God knows we're not (as does anyone who's ever met us) - but because life's unfair, and we're the lucky ones.