Row the Amazon Cambridge Judge Business School logo Leonard Cheshire Disability logo

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.

And the wheels fell off

  • 27 SEP 2013
  • By Anton Wright

It's very hard to be told what your faults are; it's especially hard to be told what your faults are whilst you are blowing all of your energy trying to row the length of the river Amazon, so as the facts were pointed out to me the news cut me deep. Annoyingly the 48 hours previously I felt as strong as an ox. Physically I was weak however mentally I was as strong as I had ever been, I felt amazing with a capital 'A'. I've already mentioned that the moods change between us and I could feel that Murilo and Mark didn't feel as good as me so I made the effort to try and raise them up. I would post tweets asking for people to message them. Murilo had cramps so I instigated that Mark and I would give Murilo a good rest, in fact the full day off to recover. As I finished one of my double night shifts I let myself over run giving them both a lie in and would try to keep positive and motivating.

I think that this was the problem, maybe they mistook my motivation for something else, as the day before our arrival to Tefe rolled on I could feel the tension. They would chat between themselves and I started to feel a bit left out, as I lay in the cabin during one of my breaks I could hear banging on the side of the boat, we had pulled in yet again to a local riverbank house. I don't mind this at all and I do believe that we should stop and interact with the locals but we are under a lot of pressure to get this row finished, It's pressure we have put on ourselves but it is an agreement we have made, get the row finished as quickly as possible, and I'm one of those people that one I have direction I can just keep going until I complete the task, but this means I also get agitated when the goalposts are moved or plans get changed without telling me. This means that I could not enjoy the stop at all, it was sucking valuable hours of rowing from my life so as Murilo explained about the National park we were in I, could not really appreciate it. As we set off again I felt relief that we were going, even though the locals at the house had said that we could drift to Tefe by 4am I didn't believe them - Amazon time is similar to a close friend of mines time, never on time.

So as we left I itched to get on the oars and power on round the next bend for a few hours yet Murilo now wanted to go fishing, this was fine with me, surely I can row while Murilo fished, that's a nice compromise, and then he wanted to visit the national park. I really wasn't happy with this; it's changing the plan, stealing my time. I've been completely honest and open about this, I have never deceived anyone, I just want to complete now, any enjoyment for this or time to sight see had been sucked out by the weeks of delays with the boat, the constant struggle of a stop start stop start transportation system that eventually brought our boat to Iquitos one month behind schedule. Also if we made good progress today maybe we could make up time to use later. This was always the agreement, we would earn our breaks and time off, if we are ahead at any point we do not squander it, the chances are that something will happen and then that time is a safety net.

Regardless of all of this, we rowed across the large span of the Amazon and visited the nesting grounds of the local birds, do not get me wrong it was really nice but these decisions were being made without asking. I'm not in charge but I am part of the team and it should be an equal team, that's where the problems lie at the moment and it grates me to the bone. As we beached the boat deliberately for a change Murilo got off and walked amongst the birds, Mark followed with his camera to capture the moment and I waited with the boat. The tensions were building and regardless of reputation or standing I couldn't sit and deal with this anymore, I'm not the type of person to be subtle and relaxed in this situation, I never have been, I warned Mark about this element about me. I can handle stress, I have methods and systems to keep calm however the more tension and negative atmosphere that there is around me the more I seem to absorb it, it eats away at me and fills me with anger until I get to a point where I realise that no matter how positive or motivating I am being it just isn't working and then that's when I give up, I confront the situation and get it out, not fully but enough to make clear that I have given up, the rest sits inside me and festers for weeks, it's a part of me I hate but once I get here I can't just clear my head. So anyway as Murilo walked over to some rangers I confronted the problem.

A simple question: "Do you have a problem with me?" - The response was no but it always is, so again but with justification this time: "Do you have a problem with me because it feels like I'm being treated like a ..." - Again no. So, after we had spoken with the rangers I approached it again, I can't let this drop because inside I was so enraged by everything.

So I'm bossy, this wasn't what I was expecting, I assumed he was annoyed that his eco message wasn't getting across or that I like taking too many naked photos of myself, this was the feedback I had got from Mark at least, so as he explained that I boss people around a lot I was thrown, I didn't realise that I was, so as we got back on the boat I tried to make sense of it, this lasted about 30 seconds before I went in again. "Are you sure you aren't confusing me being positive and motivating with bossy because maybe you are just misunderstanding the whole thing?" - I was really upset by this point, the anger inside me only had one way out and embarrassingly that was in the form of tears, it was horrible, it still is. There is so much tension on the boat, so few escapes from it, we focus on small things and take solace in loved ones via a simple message on the Sat phone, even this I can't get right so now I have select people I contact and agreements with others not to chat. There is even an acknowledgement that if anything should happen to a loved one while I am here that I don't want to know which might sound harsh but in all seriousness what could I do apart from worry?

No, it was made clear that I was bossy. Throughout this I had been sat in the seat directly between Mark and Murilo, I did this deliberately because I had always expected Mark to look after me or at least not let things escalate too far so as I turned to face Mark what was said next hit hard. Mark had no intention of supporting me whether or not he agreed in the comments and he promptly found ways to appease Murilo, offers of an hour long interview about his reserve and other beliefs. I truly expected some sort of support or acknowledgment that I was upset but nothing, as I sat in front of him in tears I realised that I had been trying so hard to look after everyone else that I had neglected to look after number one. It is the only rule on the boat, you look after everyone else and they will look after you, I had found my strength from elsewhere and as I reflected on this trip so far it dawned on me that I had had very little support from where I should have expected it most. This may sound harsh but it is how I feel about it, please bear in mind that you are reading my side of events, Mark and Murilo will see it in a different way, this isn't a moan it's just my version. I've also told Mark that this is how I feel. It's very disappointing for me that this has happened but maybe he was trying too hard to observe the team instead of actually getting involved and being part of it. From the start we/I promised to give a no holds barred account of what this row is like, there are of course things we would never discuss about each other but this topic is about emotions and dynamics in the boat and I like to think I've been very honest in my other blogs so I hope you appreciate that this is how I feel at this exact moment, the here and now.

Anyway we arrived in Tefe, later than anticipated, there was no relaxing drink and understanding this time, for me everything has changed, my priorities have been adjusted, I need to look after myself now and stop worrying about everyone else, I think this is also a lesson I need to learn in life as well. I often give too much without thinking about myself and others that are important to me, people have said it often and point out that people have a tendency to take advantage of me. It's actually quite a relief to not have to worry about anything else, I no longer have to walk on egg shells or try and motivate anyone, I no longer have to think of encouraging tweets or ways to integrate the other two into my life, all we have to agree on is the goals and aims and this point I've made clear. If we set a goal or target then they can't expect me to change my plans without asking me first, there can't be any more surprise stops for drinks or sightseeing, I'm happy to do these things but I need to know first not after the event.

  • Murilo Reis on 02 OCT 2013

    It is very difficult for me to comment such blog. making me feel like a villain, you forgot to say that I want to fish off the boat on my free time and decided to stop in a island that was 55m away to see nesting bird and made you lose precious time. I guess all the work I have done wasn't enough so I could see it. I came on this expecting to show the amazon to people not to be a part of a drama. And see myself exposed with a very unilateral version that I would prefer no to respond.

  • Kate Hurst on 30 SEP 2013

    Keep smiling, Anton, you are achieving your goal. I guess everybody has their own agendas, even within a team. I hope the anger doesn't spoil the journey you're on, we're all with you. X

  • Donna Henty on 30 SEP 2013

    Hi Anton, what a range of emotions you are all going through, lots of highs and lows. However, I hope you also see that you caring about the feelings of others is a lovely characteristic to have in a person and not one to be abandoned, especially now. We are all cheering you on at ADEC Marine.

  • Heidi on 28 SEP 2013

    Very Open and Honest! Thank you Anton, Love it. Always share truth even if it hurts! That is where resolve is found. It is like being married, 3 on a boat...and characters are rubbing. One can only look at oneself and say what can I learn from this. Live in the Now! You are in this together, and I am rooting for you three!

  • Esther de Rond on 28 SEP 2013

    Anthony, thank you for sharing , I pray you all have a safe trip and things will get better.

  • Mark Bleasdale on 27 SEP 2013

    Anton, what the hell was your last blog about. You're in a beautiful part of the world on a unique journey with two other people to share it with. Its not about you or mark or marilo its about all of you working together as a team to complete the task. Take a moment to enjoy where you are, have a look around you, its not about getting it over with as soon as poosible but soaking in the experiences of the journey to the finish line. Chin up mate and know that the people you know and love are rooting for you all. much love mate xx

  • Patti on 27 SEP 2013

    Adversity is part of life and, inevitably, we shall encounter it from time to time. When that happens, the most important thing is not the experience we have, but how we live and what we do with it.

  • Edna Harris on 27 SEP 2013

    Petulance springs to mind I'm afraid. Sad blog. Keep safe all of you.

  • David Chamberlin on 27 SEP 2013

    Janet said it, Anton. Just know you're doing something most of us couldn't dream of achieving - and even baring your thoughts to us too. Thanks for giving us this privilege. Go Anton!

    Getting it done Anton, yes! These Captchas are defeating me - I wouldn't last 5 minutes where you are.

  • Janet Gibson on 27 SEP 2013

    Thank you for such a refreshingly candid blog giving us another dimension of your challenge.

    I won't offer any platitudes as they wouldn't be helpful. Just to say I wish you all safe travel.