Here a few simple observations from our 'big brother' house of madness:
- Don't 'row' the Amazon. You can't win. As the river with the largest water flow in the world (a cool 1,000 of its tributaries alone are longer than the river Thames) it won't be manipulated. Trick instead is to let the river carry you where you want to go by nudging it into the fastest bits of water on the river. These are murderously hard to find but, once located, are worth their speed in gold.
- Don't pay attention to scaremongers. No matter how noble the intention, tales of robbery and murder will forever put you off visiting one of the wonders of the world. People love stories of anguish and horror, particularly when based in fact. However, they do a poor job at contextualisation and fail to link factual data to statistical probabilities.
- Don't be a dick. The Amazon doesn't belong to you. You are here as a guest. Respect local customs and power relationships and you'll be well taken care of. The Brazilian Navy in particular has been impressive.
- Don't expect a honeymoon. Conflict in teams is inevitable and however well you might have gotten along prior to the trip, the heat, physical exhaustion and sleep depravation will curb your enthusiasm pretty quickly.
- Don't do it for the sake of making friends. These mad ideas are often hammered out in a pub. You hit it off and kind of like the person(s) you'll be doing this with. Problem is, of course, that friendship is a poor performance indicator. It is far too feeble to be reliable. Friendship may become a corollary of performance but is rarely if ever its cause. Use objective measures (like distance covered per day, etc.) instead.
- Don't worry if the keel comes off. So long as the boat doesn't sink you can do without one. You can do without many things actually. We've got two holes in the boat and take on water 24/7. Pumping it out seems to work reasonably well.
- Don't plan for everything. Planning means training and training means acquiring every bit of kit, and medical equipment, recommended. Problem is you will rarely ever dip into it. Keep it simple.
- Don't overthink. Rowing isn't rocket science.