March 29th, 1954: Tomorrow, we begin our journey in earnest. The last few weeks have been fraught with planning and preparation, and our progress upriver has been slow as we have been making ourselves familiar with the terrain and our boats. The Marañón becomes treacherous after it meets the Rio Santiago, and we have heard all manner of outrageous stories about the rapids of the Pongo de Manseriche. That stretch of the river will test our mettle, most assuredly, but it must be done if we are to make our way into the heart of Peru and the Amazon. That is the only gateway.
Some of the members of the team, while not admitting to such superstition, have decided (in a rather impromptu fashion that says a great deal about their apprehension, and I can't say that I blame them) to celebrate the recent equinox. We are only about eight degrees below the equator here in Bolívar, and the unseasonably hot weather in March has taken some adjustment. Back home, I know there is still snow on the ground and will be for another month. Here, it was above ninety degrees yesterday. It has been nearly a month since I can remember not waking up bathed in sweat. Still, the equinox has passed, and each night is a little longer and a little cooler than the one before.
Of course, the change will also bring more rain. Mr. Gaultier has stopped harping about the delays which have pushed us into the rainy season. I think he has realized no one is listening to him any more. Círo says the rains will be less intense once we cross the mountains. The trip to Iquitos, he says, will be very dull.
Once we pass the Pongo, of course.
Mr. Harrigan has once again demonstrated his worth to be equal to his (considerable) weight in gold. Looking back in my journal, I see that it wasn't but a week ago my entries were still devoted to much depression about the imminent failure of this expedition before it could even reach Iquitos. The damaged crates from San Francisco have been weighing on me heavily; the loss of the scientific equipment in those boxes has seemed to be an insurmountable blow to the expedition. Mr. Harrigan has—somehow, as is congruent with the mythological mystique of the truly excellent quartermaster—managed to find replacements for 3/4 of that gear.
My journey is about to begin. I am tempted to join the others and have a drink to celebrate how far we have come, but such revelry is born of nervous anticipation. Look how bad my handwriting is this evening. My hand shakes. After three years of planning, the only thing standing between me and the dreams is a three mile stretch of rapids and a long "dull" boat ride afterward.