In the summer of 1980, Don Starkell set out from Winnipeg, Manitoba with his two sons – Jeff, 19, and Dana, 18 – with the goal of canoeing to the mouth of the Amazon River. It seemed impossible and many told Don he would never make it and was foolish for trying, but he spent months preparing for the trip with his sons. They painstakingly mapped the 12,000+ mile route out in detail, had a local canoe maker craft a sturdy vessel (named after Spanish explorer Orellana), and packed enough gear and food so they could survive out of their canoe for weeks at a time. They departed as planned and two years later, Don completed his trip by paddling into Belize, Brazil. This book is an edited collection of the daily journal entries Don makes on his world-record making canoe trip.
Paddle to the Amazon is as fantastical and adventurous as any work of fiction. The experiences that Don describes in his daily entries are written in an immediate way that brings the reader into the story, so that you feel like you’re in the canoe along with the Starkells. There are close-up encounters with wildlife; such as the pink-spotted freshwater dolphins that befriend the voyageur’s canoe and jump out of the water in playful displays, or the hordes of red ants that invade their campsites and relentlessly assault them with painful bites, or the myriad bird species encountered on the water that Don can’t help but imagine sticking into a boiling pot.