Sunday 20 October

It is a warm night, but I sleep soundly inside the mosquito net. We have a leisurely start to the day – an eight o’ clock breakfast is a veritable lie-in! The bus takes us a few miles down the road to an Indian village, where we pick up our guide for a jungle walk.

Our guide is keen to tell us about the medicinal properties of many of the plants that we pass. The path we are walking along is open and well-trodden but bordered on either side by thick vegetation. And it is very hot. We pass over several rivers on log bridges, some of which seem rather high and precarious to us, although the guides probably wonder what all the fuss is about. (Debbie remarks “They’re probably thinking ‘You could drive a bus over there.’”) I feel sorry for Sue though, who by her own admission has no sense of balance, and for whom the branch that serves as a handrail across one particularly narrow log is quite beyond reach.

We see little wildlife. There is a glimpse of one hairy brown leg of a tarantula spider in a hole among the roots of a tree, but it is unwilling to come out to play despite our guide rudely prodded it with a stick of grass.

Presently we come to a small clearing around a rocky area next to a fast-flowing river. One of our Indian guides goes in for a swim – a bit like a log-flume ride only without the log. Sim and Patricia have a bit of a paddle, but concede that the current is too fast.

On our return (across more log bridges), we pass an Indian house, its walls and roof all made from thatched leaves. A man is sitting there weaving a long basket that is used to dry the paste from which they make their bread. It is hotter than ever and I feel ready to keel over in the hot humid and stagnant air. Eventually we move on, and I feel slightly better once the moving air starts to provide some cooling.

Back at the lodge, a lunch of spag bol is waiting. We are all absolutely famished. But there is only a short respite before our boat trip up the river. We have two tin tubs equipped each with a 40 hp outboard. It is not reassuring when ours conks out two minutes up the river. The cover comes off and there is some tinkering. A few moments later the engine starts – and then dies again. We do get away eventually though, and are soon skimming across the smooth water. We make a left turn up a small tributary and motor along for some time. Marshes of tangled roots alternate with steep banks and rock. In places the water seems to flow between the trees everywhere and there is no clear main channel. The current is quite strong, and the uneven drive and noise of the engine makes for a somewhat uncomfortable ride.

Finally we turn around, the driver cuts the engine, and we begin to drift back. The other boat now seems to be having trouble with the engine starter cord – I guess that the driver does not want to get back to the Orinoco only to discover he cannot start the engine, and there is yet more tinkering until he his happy. A couple of kingfishers fly just ahead of us for some way down the channel as we drift back. We take it in turns to paddle, and end up racing the other boat as we approach the main river.

We are back just in time for a brief swim, but in the dusk I find that I am being eaten alive by millions of small biting insects.