Have just put down one of the most extraordinary adventure travel books I have ever read. Leonard Clark’s The Rivers Ran East, published in 1953, relates a quest for gold in the farthest reaches of the Amazon Basin, a journey so packed with high drama that many on-line reviewers declare it fiction, not fact.
Clark and his companions – including Inez Pokorny, an equally intrepid American woman who shows up in Iquitos – survive stand-offs with headhunting tribesmen and witchdoctors, confront anacondas, piranhas and crocodiles, and at times almost starve. Along the way they witness hitherto-unknown birds and animals and benefit from miraculous cures known only to the jungle people. Finally, Clark and Pokorny stagger out of the jungle and into the foothills of the Andes, laden with shrunken heads, live ocelots and bamboo containers stuffed with gold dust.
And all this follows Clark’s earlier years of exploration, espionage and guerilla warfare in China, Tibet and Mongolia. Yes, it all sounds just too far-fetched – but the US Consul in Iquitos, Peru, happily penned a glowing introduction to The Rivers Ran East . The Amazon.com review by Clark’s niece also adds credibility.
The book has long been out of print. If you’re in a hurry, copies can be found on-line, but why not browse the secondhand book stores first?
Why have we Aussies never heard of Clark’s derring-do before? One modern-day Italian traveller did set out to follow at least some of the way in Clark’s footsteps, with mixed results. And here’s the Peruvian tourism bureau’s offering on Iquitos and the surrounding region.