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2077 miles. Two men. One boat.
Mark de Rond and Anton Wright will row the entire length of the Amazon River in September and October 2013.

Conflict and harmony

  • 19 SEP 2013
  • By Mark de Rond

Anton's been very candid about last night's clearing-the-air and the build-up of small frustrations and misunderstandings that led up to it. None of it should surprise. We are human after all – three of them – sequestered to a small ocean rowing boat in intense heat, deprived of sleep, sex and solitude, on a river the colour of cities (to borrow from Saul Bellow). It's easy to overstate the bad bits – they make for good stories – but as much of the journey's been good fun so far. Personalitywise we are all quite different. We have different professions and values and ideals. But we're boys too – and we do (and talk) as boys do when away: we laugh when letting rip, tell tales of conquests good and bad and ugly, shit and shower in each other's company – not because we want to but because it is what human beings confined to a six-by-three feet of usable deck space. Frankly, there's something liberating about the whole shebang.

Being human means we fall far short of the ideals we set for ourselves: we are less patient than we'd hope to be, less balanced, less moral and less morally consistent, more anxious, more irritable, more afraid, and in need of more sleep and cuddles. Conflict rears its head occasionally – as of course it would (and must for much good is gained by it) – and yet despite all that it is never pretty nor enjoyable. Conflict sucks.

Yet harmony does too if pursued for its own sake. Harmony – even friendship – may provide intimacy and feelings of comfortable but are deeply corrosive if the chief or, God forbid, sole pursuit in teams. For people easily become hostage to harmony at the expense of concrete, measurable, 'objective' pursuits – and can suffer terrible anxiety as a result. Any society, no matter how noble its objectives, is subject to moral failure, and our society of 'fools on a boat' is no exception. In fact, even the highest performing teams will feel off-balance for at least some of the time but are no less effective for it.

Harmony, camaraderie, even friendship may happen but if they do it is invariably the consequence of a job well done or a crisis fared well and not the other way around. And so it is with our three-some too. We get along well enough – very well in fact – and would, I'm sure, love to stay friends forever.

However, friendship isn't, and cannot be, our principal pursuit. It is too fragile and volatile an objective to provide the platform for teamwork. When stripped of all glamour, we really are no more than three guys trying to help each other achieve an objective while looking after each other meanwhile.

Progress is measured in terms of distance covered each day. We take turns cooking food. We stick to a strict rowing roster. We work 24/7, making sure the boat never stops moving. We express our competitive nature using impromptu races. We vent using politically incorrect statements. We find respite in rock music – singing at the top of our lungs, alone or together – its lyrics the best possible expression of our mid-life anxieties and frustrations. Simple is beautiful. Why make things more complicated than they need to be?

  • Bob Hinings on 26 SEP 2013

    Thanks for all the insights that you are providing on your incredible, challenging journey. Keep safe, Bob

  • Wies Ubags on 23 SEP 2013

    I'm following your journey and I think you are doing great.

    Were you stuck in Leticia or did you have a break or was the system down? Anyway I hope you had a few nice beers.

    I wrote an article about your trip before you started for Dutch press agency ANP. Would be great to make an update. So great if you can tell me what's the hardest thing, if you are on schedule, what the most difficult part of the journey, did that already pass or has it yet to come?

    Good luck!!! Wies Ubags.

  • Kate Hagstrom on 22 SEP 2013

    Mark, Anton and my special friend Murilo (kattoo). I hope you are well and rowing like crazy. I can't imagine what you are all going through but I know that you are all doing your best. My thoughts are with you and hope you are all healthy.

    A trip of a lifetime. Memories for a lifetime.

    Heads up, "tits to yer knees" brave, be strong and big hugs to you!!!

  • Louisa Keyner on 20 SEP 2013

    Hallo Mark, Anton and Murilo, what a exiting trip you all are ontertaking, Yes I know by reading all your coverage it is not a trip you would take your family on, lots of hard times, but still you see things no one ever have seen, woh, i wish all of you a safe trip, were looking forward to the the end of it all, and reading about it, take care, we keep you in our prayers, louisa.