I heard about the great Amazon River Raft Race soon after coming to Iquitos in 2006. People came from many parts of Peru and the world to build a raft out of logs and paddle downriver from Nauta to Iquitos. The event grew to have over fifty four-person teams enduring hard adventure and competing for prize money.
Some years back, I connected on Facebook with the adventurous Kate Hagstrom from Canada who was a regular race participant. We just missed meeting about 4 years ago when the race concluded on the outskirts of Iquitos.
COVID halted the race for 2 years, but it was back on this year. The number of teams joining the event had steadily shrunk since the government took over sponsoring the event, but 12 teams seemed ready to join this year.
I joined Kate, her teammates from England, Switzerland and Peru and an all British team for dinner last night. It was fun to finally meet a virtual friend in person. It was an interesting dinner, because the company co-organizing the event shared the disturbing news that the government had told him an hour before it was pulling its financial support for the event. More funds would be needed to secure the support boat for the rafters. The discussions that followed were understandably very emotional. Ultimately new agreements were reached that would permit the event to go ahead.
No prize money would be available this time, so it was neat to hear the group agree to recast the event as a joint adventure instead of a race. They would stay close together to support each other in case of groundings (the river level in this intense dry season is very low) or deal with storms. Kate spoke passionately about the importance of havng fun and paying attention to the genuine perils of this trip. Paddling down the Amazon should not be taken lightly. The government may have been hesitant to support the raft event because it was criticized for poor support for a triathalon two months ago when one swimmer drowned.
I appreciated the group was interested in my work so some of them may visit a native village partner with us in the future.
It was great to learn that Kate's team won the international division of the race!
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."