To the end of the Amazon in Brazil: ‘there are forms of life here that I never knew existed’

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On the final leg of his Amazon adventure, our writer arrives in Brazil, where he looks at efforts to revive tribal cultures and to protect wildlife in the world’s most fascinating environmental battleground
Part 1: The alternative Inca Trail
Part 2: Exploring Lake Titicaca
Part 3: The Peruvian Amazon

The boatman drops me on a small wooden landing stage next to what I assume is the riverbank. “They’ll be here soon,” he says. “The lodge is up a creek and my boat can’t get there.” When he has gone, I clamber up on the bank and discover that I’m actually on an island. Orioles are perched on swaying stems of tall grass; a hawk and an osprey are watching for fish. Despite the drought-induced low water, the Amazon stretches far away to a distant shore and the smooth surface is occasionally split by a river dolphin rising for air. I have a moment of pure exhilaration. I am alone in the centre of the Amazon basin, unsure if I’m in Peru, Colombia or Brazil, but feeling that I’ve escaped such mundane concerns.

From the shimmering heat downstream a canoe appears, carrying two men. One sits upfront, a battered straw hat pulled down low over a wispy grey beard and round horn-rimmed spectacles. He looks like an intellectual who has spent a lifetime living in the remotest places on Earth. And that, as it turns out, is precisely what he is.

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