Bruce and Eric Ride the River

[Eric]: What did you like about Peru? What were some of the things?

[Bruce]: In Peru the way we got around was not by four-wheeled vehicles, but on motorcycles, so from the age of probably twelve. We learned to drive fairly early. There was no pavement. It was all dirt and mud and in summertime it’s dust, four inches thick. That’s how we got around.

Then, of course, alligator-hunting was a favorite. What else did we do? We would climb sheer rock cliffs where we would go vacation once in a while. There was a waterfall that we would mess around in.

We took river trips where Eric and I, at one point, it took us—how long did we figure it took us to get out of one whirlpool that we were stuck in?

[Eric]: Around and around.

[Bruce]: It seemed like it was hours, but it was probably, maybe twenty minutes or something.

[Eric]: Huge, huge whirlpool. Our raft was kind of slender and long. Of course, he was on one end and I was on the other end. When it made it made one swirl around, he would be underneath the water, chest deep, and I would be way up in the air. Then it went around the other way and we reversed, so I was deep in the water, scared to death, and he would be up, laughing at me. We went around and around in this thing. We didn’t know how we were going to get out. Finally, it just swirled us out. It took forever. Later on, I think, we saw a skeleton down on the beach.

[Steve]: Who didn’t get out.

[Bruce]: Spit it out on shore. Did a Jonah.

[Eric]: I just couldn’t believe that our parents let us do that, thinking back. How on the world, did they let us make this two-week trip down the river, in an area where only the Ashanica [recorder off].

. . .

[Eric]: So Bruce ran as fast as he could to get there in case the plane were to take off again. And fortunately, you know, they had room for us. But, I mean, it was all by the seat of our pants. Crazy.

[Bruce]: The year before, they’d had a flood, bigger than usually, so all their bananas and yucca had been washed out, as I recall, so there was very little food. We ended up eating with the Indians as we stopped at different villages. And we were so hungry at this one village we stopped at, I had to brain the head of the fish and it tasted so. . . . Remember that? And then once we got to where the plane was. . . .

[?]: So what? It wasn’t so good?

[Bruce]: Yeah. It was delicious. But we stopped and we ate two loaves of bread each when we finally got to civilization.

[Eric]: Mmmmm.

[Bruce]: We hadn’t had any carbs and we were. . . .

[Eric]: We would get to a community, a Campa community. Of course this was all area where my parents worked and they knew my parents. We knew they knew my dad’s name and so they associated us with him. Some of them knew us as kids, but, I mean, we didn’t know really the people. So we would ask them for a place to stay and they’d put us up for the night, give us some food, and we’d go on the next day. It was quite an adventure.

story told by Bruce and Eric (Lee’s sons) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • How old were Bruce and Eric when they took the river trip?
  • What year(ish) would this have been?
  • What was that bit that wasn’t recorded? I seem to remember something about Eric getting sick.
  • What’s the name of the river they were paddling down?
  • Anybody got a photo you want to add of that kind of raft or the boys/kids in a raft at about that time?

 

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3 thoughts on “Bruce and Eric Ride the River

  1. vgorman63

    Mom did not remember this event, nor, of course, the year. She did say one of the rivers’ names on which the Campa people lived, was the Ene river. She is not sure if this is the river my brothers were on.
    She loved hearing the story! Thanks, Dawn!!

  2. Dawn Duncan Harrell Post author

    Bruce writes: My recollection was that we were 16/17 which would have put the summer 2 week outing around 1971. Surviving on the generosity of the natives along the way down the Urabamba ending up in the Ucallali river. (Not sure the spelling) whirl pools and human skeletons in remote locations were only some of the rafting experiences. Eric’s health issues doesn’t ring a bell but near starvation for both of us was a real memory. Ucayali river in Peru.

  3. Pingback: Park Street Church Supports Every Odd Child | Eight Duncans

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