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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.

Now it's all over, how do you feel?

  • 15 OCT 2013
  • By Mark de Rond

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.

  • Gido on 17 OCT 2013

    Life is a long string of experiences, most of them you'll forget, this one will be and definitely should be in your memories forever. Van harte, proficiat!

  • Anton Wright on 16 OCT 2013

    I love you buddy xxx

  • Alan Miller on 16 OCT 2013

    I am extremely happy that you and Anton completed the row successfully! Hopefully, Mark, you will use what you learned about yourself to be an even better person as you begin a new chapter of your life.

  • Patti on 16 OCT 2013

    Anton and Mark a big hug and best wishes.

  • Janet G on 16 OCT 2013

    An amazing challenge and such touching honesty Mark. I wish you a safe and healthy return home and hope to see you soon. Take care.

  • Shirley on 16 OCT 2013

    I'm not comfortable letting my thoughts air in public, but I can't leave the sadness of your reflections on the human condition alone. I have spent a long working life with people who have been thrust into terrifying, debilitating and painful situations through no fault of their own and I have witnessed the most amazing strength of the human spirit. Kindness, self sacrifice, humility, great bravery, self knowledge, neighbourly love, and in the end acceptance and grace. What you have achieved physically and emotionally is truly amazing, your strength and determination to carry on to the finish was inspirational, but you don't represent the human race. Two big egos in a yellow boat! I don't think so. You two chose to put yourself into that very testing situation. If you hit each other over the head with a big stick why are you surprised your skull is broken? For goodness sake go home and smell the roses. You'll find all those good things about humanity there. People who love you, supported you, put their life on hold for you, wept for you, feared for you, missed you, more than you can imagine.

  • Pete on 16 OCT 2013

    Looking forward to the many episodes of this tremendous tale. Well done Mark and Anton. Take care on the way home.