In 1985 a team of hand-picked adventurers, including writer Joe Kane, embarked on a journey that would take them to the remote headwaters of the Amazon Basin. But that was just the beginning of the trip. Their goal: to navigate the world's longest river from source to mouth, a feat never before recorded.
After reaching (via a goat trail) a glacial trickle above 17,000 feet--debatably the farthest source of the Amazon--the team descends to a point where kayaks can be deployed. From there the trip entails kayaking through one of the nastiest white-water canyons on the planet, a stretch of water that has previously claimed the lives or quickly halted the plans of all who attempted to conquer it; navigating an unmapped gorge known affectionately as the Abyss; sneaking through the "Red Zone," an area closed to foreigners and occupied by the notorious Shining Path rebels; and, finally, paddling to the Atlantic by sea kayak through 3,000 miles of hot jungle.
Hired initially to chronicle the project from dry land, Kane quickly assumes a more integral role as a much-needed paddler, and as such he is able to provide vivid, first-hand descriptions of the treacherous water encountered. But in many ways the water is the least imposing obstacle to success. Along the way the team is beset by financial difficulties, a crisis of leadership, attacks from armed rebels, and the defection of team members. Kane's account of this six-month ordeal is much more than a travelogue of athletic endeavor--it's a fascinating portrait of the planning, politics, and personal struggles involved in mounting a modern-day expedition through a vast expanse of largely uncharted territory.