Wade Davis talks about Rio Magdalena

Posted By Rotary Admin

On a chilly January evening in 2021, Wade Davis spoke to nearly 100 members of The Rotary Club of Bowen Island and their guests, in the warmth of friendship and the comfort of a Zoom meeting. He talked about his affection for the South American country of Columbia, and its great river, Rio Magdalena — and his new book: Magdalena, River of Dreams.

Davis speaks the way he writes — a lyrical style that is evocative and poetic. Here is how he begins to describe his life-long love affair with Columbia.

…in the early spring of 1974 I returned to Columbia with a one-way ticket. I had just a small backpack of clothes and two books: George Lawrence’s Taxonomy of Vascular plants, and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

And at the time I literally felt that bliss was an objective state that one could achieve just by opening yourself unabashedly to the world. Both literally and figuratively, I drank from every stream even from tire tracks in the roads. Naturally I was constantly sick, but even that seemed part of the process of malarial and dysentery fevers that rose in the evening, only to break with the dawn.

Once on a on a day’s notice, I agreed to guide an english journalist — who would walk from the tip of South America destined for the far reaches of Alaska. And the only part of his itinerary that did not have a road was the notorious Darien Gap: at the time, 250 miles of swamp and rain forest that separated Panama from Colombia.

[Hiking through the Darian Gap] was extraordinary adventure, in the middle of the rainy season, walking through swamps with the water to our necks. We became, at one point, lost in the forest for 12 days. [We were] with three indians, with no food and no shelter, when we finally emerged safely. [We had] encountered jaguars and anaconda, been chased by the military, and robbed by thieves.

When we finally kind-of reached safety in Panama City I scrambled off a small airplane with only the ragged and rotten clothes on my back and three dollars to my name.

You can see a video recording of the entire talk at the Wade Davis page in Bowen Rotary Speakers Archive. << Click to view the video.

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