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A childhood nightmare comes true


My dugout canoe crew
Redmond O'Hanlon Writer
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And so, in the bongo, there's Culimacare, the lookout. And then we had to take a wonderful guy called Galvis, who was Venezuelan. I mean, they're all Venezuelan, but a white Venezuelan. And he was living in San Carlos de Rio Negro because he was a double murderer. It wasn't really his fault. He ran a little shop, and someone annoyed him, so he shot them. And that's okay. And then somebody... I forget, I think somebody tried to break in, and even though that was okay, too, really, it's just bad luck if you kill two people. So he was more or less exiled to this little town, and was trying to be the mayor, so he's coming with us. And he has this massive radio, with which he can communicate with Charlie, was the idea. Because if there was any trouble, or if Charlie thought Simon might have a breakdown, which he did... And then Charlie, you know, he would helicopter in. Of course, he told me afterwards, it's just so beneath contempt and working class to go if you're not in a helicopter to a place like that. We don't do that. That's for Indians.

So that's Galvis, and then the axeman, wonderfully strong, and sad. Pablo, he was called. And he was sad because he adored his wife, his first wife, and she was out in her curiara, fishing canoe, on the Rio Negro one day, and these fast, snap storms come up, and produce quite nasty big waves, and she drowned. And he'd never got over it.

And when I paid them all half of their money in advance for however many... four months or something, we saw him in the morning lying in the grass, holding his whole bunch of notes, and somebody had ripped them. It's that kind of society. Anyway, so we left when they all sobered up. And then a very old man called Valentini, who came along because he was related to everybody, and he had rheumy eyes and was a sweetheart, and I gave them all pipes, and this old man, he couldn't believe he'd finally got something from the Western world, as he called it. It was a perfectly ordinary pipe from Savory's in Oxford.

So that's it. And Simon...             

British author Redmond O’Hanlon writes about his journeys into some of the wildest places in the world. His travels have taken him into the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, he has faced some of the toughest tribes alive today, and has sailed in the hurricane season on a trawler in the North Atlantic. In all of this, he explores the extremes of human existence with passion, wit and erudition.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: SAS, Venezuela, San Carlos de Río Negro, Simon Stockton, Charles Brewer-Carias

Duration: 3 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: July - September 2008

Date story went live: 11 August 2009