God, please help me.
I thought this was the end. Then I found myself above water, the raft floating again. I jerked my head around and saw Kevin, a hundred yards or more behind me, running in my direction. Relief washed over me.
“I’ll wait for you wherever I manage to make shore!” I shouted and waved at him.
Kevin couldn’t hear me, but he waved back and kept running.
Suddenly I understood where I was: I had entered the canyon and was being swept swiftly toward the treacherous Mal Paso San Pedro. The raft bounced from wall to wall. It crashed into the rocks, tilted on its sides, was tossed over falls, and swept through foaming rapids. I held on desperately, closing my eyes and praying God, God.
I landed in the water close to the bank and, wonder of wonders, felt sand beneath my feet. I could actually stand up. I staggered out of the river, unbelieving.
It was a few moments before my breathing became regular. Then my thoughts turned to my present situation. The life pack was lost, nowhere to be seen.
And what about Kevin? Surely he would find me. I had seen him running in my direction. He would certainly make it this far today – or tomorrow at the latest. Yes, everything would be all right. I was sure.
I awoke stiff and hunched over, my body feeling the effects of my stone mattress. I came out of my hideout and sat studying the map. It was wet and torn, but I found the Tuichi and Ipurama rivers and the X that marked Curiplaya. I tried to use the map’s scale to calculate the distance. A large river that fed into the Tuichi was shown on the map before Curiplaya. I hoped it would be passable.
I debated whether to begin walking or to wait for Kevin. Last night’s hallucinations were still tormenting me. Kevin needed me and I needed him. We had to find each other. Together we could make it through anything. I decided to walk toward him, hoping I would meet him on the way.
I walked on for hours, calling out ‘Kevin, Kevin’, every few minutes, but I was answered only by the roar of the river below. I felt no hunger, was unaware of the pain in my feet, didn’t feel the weight of the pack or the irritating rain. I was too restless to stop; I had to go on.
Then I came to a dead end. The ledge I was walking along suddenly dropped off. Below me about two hundred feet flowed the Tuichi. The view was breathtaking. The silver river snaked through the thick jungle growth. I stood looking at the water for a long while, half expecting to see Kevin’s body swept along by the current. I had to go on looking for him. He would die without me.
Yossi spent another twenty nights along in the Amazon, Kevin did not survive, the days and weeks that followed this passage took Yossi to the very edge of what a human can stand. Hallucinations, starvation and attacks.
A few hours went by; I was in total darkness. Suddenly I heard the snapping of branches, the stealthy thud of footsteps, something coming. Fear gripped me. It’s only your imagination, I kept telling myself, but the rustling of the leaves and branches was so clear.
The fear weighed upon me; I had never been so terrified. I tried to lie back down and cover myself up, but I kept hearing sounds all around me, and my heart was pounding frantically.
God, just don’t let a wild animal devour me.
I heard the rustle again, too close and too real to ignore. I clutched the flashlight, stuck my head out of the mosquito net, and turned it on…and found myself face-to-face with a jaguar.
It was large, covered with black spots. One of its paws was raised off the ground, as if it had been about to take another step. Its eyes were neither ferocious nor meek. They were just great cat’s eyes, staring at me. The jaguar stood perfectly still; only it’s tail waived slowly back and forth.