It is 02:40. Anton and I have staked out a small corner of a mostly empty departures hall in Brasilia. We have just flown in from Macapá - where we said goodbye to our sorry yellow boat - and will shortly be on our way to Sao Paulo. Thinking it useful to commit our very first reflections on the past 60 days to paper, Anton and I ordered a couple of drinks (a Stella Artois for him and, thanks to the antibiotics, coffee for me) and buckled down.
So what were the past 60 days really like? How do we feel now it's all over? Anton will give you his reflections. Let me try to give you mine.
These reflections are brief. More elaborate blogs will follow, in which I will add my interpretation of events already outlined by my Brazilian and Mancunian team members. They will differ from theirs in certain aspects - as will always be the case - and I've held off posting in part because this was always intended in part as a research project into the dynamics of collaboration under pressure. It's the sort of stuff I'd been looking into for 15 years. To join Anton (and Murilo) on this incredible journey was to put my money where my mouth had been for far too long. There will be a time and place to sketch out my personal observations. But this isn't it.
How do I feel now the lady's come and sung? Hard to say, really, partly because I'm so very exhausted but mostly because the entire experience has been such a rollercoaster of emotions, forcing me to reflect deeply (and deeply uncomfortably) on a life partially lived - one with more lucky breaks than I deserve and plenty to be ashamed of. I have felt more afraid and vulnerable and alone and sad and betrayed than I have for as long as I remember. As I thumbed into my iPhone just two weeks ago:
"One of the silver linings of today's developments is the rare, and mostly unwelcome, glimpse into the inner world of being human. There's so little there that is beautiful. The fiery swamp inside reeks of selfishness and opportunism and hatred. There is no love of neighbour. There is not even love of self.
"What there is instead is a self-loathing and ruthless desire to keep patching that aching void by means of deception, by living off the Revlon-esque hopes of easy prey, or low-hanging fruit of society. What we have here then is akin to a meat-feast: a table of carnivores feasting on altruism, or the pilferage of those less assertive or more gullible, and when these coffers are empty, then to continue to feast on each other instead. Our hunger, alas, is never satisfied, for depravity and loathing are bottomless pits. We humans aren't pretty. We are a sorry lot. God help us." Dark stuff indeed.
But I have felt immense gratitude too - often to locals whose hospitality we will never be able to reciprocate - and the closeness that comes connecting to another human being, equally vulnerable and confused and hopeful that at some level the Amazon might help sort out for once and all the nausea that is one's inner world. With Anton these last two weeks have been amazing. Left to our own devices we sought refuge in each other and, in so many ways, succeeded beyond expectations. They will always be my most precious memories of the six-week adventure.
But at a very basic level I feel immensely happy to be here. Even 30 hours ago I didn't think I'd be here. Anton's given a brief description of one of the more frightening recent experiences in which he - entirely truthfully - points at a 14 year old boy and his tiny flat-bottomed vessel as our source of salvation. I doubt he will ever know how very pivotal a role he played.
We had been left beached in yet another tropical storm but this time without drinking water and communication: our satellite phone had stopped working - and, despite the presence of four fishing vessels, no response whatsoever to our emergency flares or horn, waist-deep in muddy water and facing a badly damaged rudder and rapidly flooding boat. Though we were together, we were very much alone.
And so then there were two, sat at an airport, skinny and unwashed, but oh so happy, so grateful, so deeply contented. The support from you, the reader and Tweeter, have been hugely helpful, particularly during darker periods. Thanks for sticking with us. Thank you.
Time to board. See you all soon.