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Through Jaguar Eyes: Crossing the Amazon Basin

Through Jaguar Eyes: Crossing the Amazon Basin

Author(s): Benedict Allen

Location(s): Amazon Rainforest

Genre(s): Travelogue

Era(s): Modern

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An account of a perilous 3600-mile journey made in February 1993 – without compass or map – across the vast Amazon Basin, from the Andes of north-west South America through the tropical jungles of the lowlands to the dense forests of the Mato Grosso in Brazil. In all his explorations of exotic places – Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, Venezuela – Benedict Allen has deliberately immersed himself in the life of tribal peoples, and learnt their techniques for survival. His plan in setting out to cross the Amazon Basin was to place his life in the hands of the remote Matses, the “jaguar people” – Indians who aspired to the grace and strength of the powerful cat, tattooing their faces with jaguar stripes and placing bamboo spikes in their noses to resemble whiskers. From the foothills of the Ecuadorian volcano Cotopaxi he descended into Columbia and “forbidden” cocaine traffickers’ country. Eluding a hitman from a drug gang, he entered Peru and, travelling mostly by canoe, made contact with the shy and elusive Matses. For two months he was taught how to make hunting traps and learnt the properties of plants. Then Benedict, jokingly dubbed “The Man Without Fear” by the Indians, had to put his newly-acquired knowledge to the test. What follows is a dramatic and often desperate journey through uncharted terrain. Abandoned by local guides, robbed of his vital machete by gold miners, barefoot and alone, he finally emerged from the forest with little more than his hat, trousers and a ragged shirt. The last man to attempt the crossing (Colonel Percy Fawcett in 1925) was never seen again.

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