National Geographic : 1952 Sep
385 Indians Heave the Canoe over Rocks in a Tug of War Against Foaming Rapids One slip of the wrist and the precious equipment spills overboard. Unexpected holes, treacherous eddies, and submerged rocks multiply hazards (text below). So dangerous are the rapids that Indians give each a name and speak of it with respect. Fructuoso wears the author's panama, her companion on many a trip. the dugout through. We unloaded and re loaded time and again. Richer by a gift of 20 pounds of farinha from the captain of the festival, the Cubeos once again took interest in traveling. They were not laughing at butterflies now. The river demanded their constant attention, and Fructuoso put to good use all his 38 years' experience on the Vaupes. I noticed the glassy smoothness of the water at my elbow and the racing speed of blobs of foam. We sped toward the vortex ahead, where the mist mounted like smoke and white water roared. Ponchos had been tucked over the luggage. I fastened my knapsack, with its cameras and film, under my chin. This experience was so new to me that I did not know where the greatest danger lay. You do not portage around these rapids; you either sweep safely through or are tumbled into the melee. In the canoe each move and command was significant. I was ordered to sit absolutely still. Tension edged Fructuoso's voice. San uel's face was grim. White Water Makes a White Face The young boys in the bow held their paddles tensely. Just above the white water, Sanuel stood up to choose his channel. At his shout of command the boys released the canoe and it shot forward. The first rush of water was exhilarating, but as we swept into a stretch of wild, leaping waves I blanched. Where the entire river poured into a churn ing maelstrom, Sanuel shot the canoe across diagonally, and the boys in the bow swung their paddles madly. We had to cut across the rapids with enough speed to prevent the waves from swamping the canoe and with sufficient skill on the pilot's part to keep it from falling into the furious rush of surging water in the main channel.