Manaus. The cruise director insisted onrnshowing Papillon night after night,rnthough he had a copy of Werner Herzog’srnmar’elous movie Fitzcarraldo, shotrnin Manaus and set in the era of my talk.rnDespite my request, no works by my authorsrnwere available in the bookshop onrnboard, and of course no reading list hadrnbeen sent to the passengers. But many ofrnthem proved loyal patrons. Before myrnfirst lecture, a charming and sophisticatedrnMexican child approached me, gravelyrnshook my hand, and said: “I wish you arnvery plee-sante conferencia.”rnSo I lectured, as the ship rocked gentlyrnon the Adantic Ocean between Trinidadrnand the Amazon, just after my audiencernhad put away a substantial lunch, a fewrndrinks, and a daily dose of Dramamine.rnThe golden oldies, as if under a spell, fellrnasleep as soon as I began to speak and didrnnot wake up until the real crowd surgedrnin at the end of the hour for the highstakesrnbingo game. But they all clappedrnappreciatively, and one comatose fanrntold me: “I did so enjoy your talk. Yournmust tell me sometime what it was allrnabout.”rnfialfway down to the Amazon, offrnCayenne on the coast of French Guiana,rnwe stopped at Devil’s Island, which forrnmore than a century had been a notoriousrnpenal colony, hi the 1890’s, CaptainrnAlfred Dreyfus had been unjusdy imprisonedrnthere. We climbed up the steep hillrnin the intense equatorial heat and saw, inrnthe cracked walls and rusting cells, thernremnants of its bloody past. SomernFrench residents had come over from therncapital for the weekend, and the womenrnlay topless on the rocks. The teenagernboys from our ship stared in disbeliefrnhi order to save docking fees, the shiprnmoored outside the harbors. The transferrnof 470 niosdy elderly people onto smallrntenders in swelling seas was unbearablvrntedious. We once waited for more thanrnan hour, on ship and on shore, to spendrnonly 45 minutes in the dreary, squalidrntown of Santarem. It was difficult to seernbirds and monkeys on the distant banksrnof the wide muddy river, let alone thernjaguars that crouched in the jungle. Therncruise did not provide any maps or detailedrninformation about the Brazilianrnports, perhaps because there was nothingrnmuch to do there. Most passengers resentedrnthe high prices the cruise chargedrnfor tours, which could be bought locallyrnfor half the cost.rnBelem, on the coast of Brazil, lies nearrnan island in the mouth of the Amazon,rnthe Ilha de Marajo, which is larger thanrnSwitzerland. We ignored the tour, leftrnour daughter on board to play with herrnfriends, and took a five-hour walk acrossrnthe steamy town. We saw the market,rncathedral, museum, and closely confinedrnanimals in the rundown zoo, and endedrnup on a boat ride through the creeks andrnchannels of the Guama River. It was notrnthrilling, but at least we could form somernprivate impressions of the place instead ofrnbeing herded onto buses with the usualrncrowd.rnFrom Belem, we began the voyage uprnthe Amazon. The pool on board wasrnemptied, since we no longer had sea waterrnto fill it, but people still sat around it inrndeck chairs. Every day at four, a brief,rndrenching rainstorm drove everyone indoors.rnThe riverine journey becamernrather alarming when the ship had to negotiate,rnwith the aid of a pilot fromrnBelem, a narrow channel in the river.rnWe had already noticed that the handsomerncaptain’s orders were not alwaysrngreeted by a smart “aye-aye, sir.” Thisrntime the crew and officers engaged in anrnunseemly shouting match, a Greek chorusrnwe could have done without. It wasrnnasty listening to the engines madly brakingrnat the bend of the river, wonderingrnwhen we would go aground.rnWe approached a village in the jungle,rnwhere scraggly dogs and black pigs rootedrnin the mud and dugout canoesrnbobbed next to a rickety pier. The villagers,rncarrying pots on their heads, theirrnfull-bellied children clinging to theirrnlegs, strolled out to greet us. They waved,rnand the passengers on deck put downrntheir Bloody Marv-s to record the scenernon their vide o cameras. But the ship,rnwhich must have seemed from the shorernas tall as a sk) scraper, created a huge tidalrnwave as it lui ched ever closer. The jettyrnwas swamped, the natives dropped theirrnpots and swim for their lives, the dogsrnand pigs dniwned. I closed my eyes.rnThis was toi rism —sitHng on the upperrndeck 50 fee in the air, drink in hand,rnlooking dow i on ant-like peasants doingrntheir laundn and preparing their meals.rnI couldn’t hi Ip feeling ashamed of beingrnpart of some hing rich, fat, and intrusive.rnWe managed to destroy the place beforernwe could in ade it.rnSoon the lot ri’er, its color a greenishrnmud, was so vvide we could hardly see thernshore on either side. After days of oceanrncruising, tfe effect of this calm, flatrnscener}’ was oddly disturbing. But the realit}-rnof actua lly being on the Amazon wasrnnot enough for the passengers; they wantedrnphotographs and souvenirs to confirmrnthe experience. At Alter do Chao, a torpidrnvillage with thatched houses restingrnprecariously on high stilts, they rushed offrnto buy things. A short time later, they returnedrnladen, like primitive tribesmen,rnwith rough-hewn canoe paddles, bowsrnand arrows, spears, and feathered headdresses.rnAt Boca do Valerio, where stupefiedrnIndians with stained red hair staredrnat us from the banks of the sluggish river,rnwe walked through a jimgle trail and finallyrnsaw some wildlife: a bright swarm ofrnbutterflies.rnIn Manaus, our final port, we got uprnearh’ and left the ship to tour the essentialrnplaces before catching a plane home.rnWe saw the Indian Museum and thernTeatro Amazonas, built in 1896 by thernrubber barons at a cost of two million dollars.rnCaruso sang there, in the days whenrnpeople were so rich they drank champagnernand ate cheese imported fromrnFrance. Today, alas, Manaus is a dullrntown. The schedule gave us no time tornfind a boat and see where the Rio Negrornand the Amazon, flowing in two difl’erentrnh other in one mighty colors, lom eacrnstream. We realized that we would havernhad to travel another thousand miles upriver,rnto Leticia, in Colombia, and on tornIquitos in the Peruvian Amazon, if wernwanted to see the truly primitive and exoticrnlife we had hoped to find at the endrnof our journey.rnIn the afternoon, hot and sweat)’, exhaustedrnand desperate for a shower, wernwere herded, like refugees, into a fewrnsmall rooms in a depressingly third-raternhotel. We ended the trip in a st)’le typicalrnof this cruise line, traveling to the airportrnin an old bus, with sealed windows andrnno air conditioning, that felt like an oven.rnThe furious passengers, finally dischargedrnfrom protective custody, actuallyrncheered when the plane took off. Touringrnwas tiring—they were looking forwardrnto going back to work. As I staredrnout of the plane window and saw thernspectacular view of a hundred windingrntributaries, I reflected on how little of thatrnendless river we had actually seen.rnA cruise—an uneasy cross between arnhigh-class prison and an impoverishedrnconvalescent home—offers a secure basernand organized tours for timid travelers inrnforeign parts. The whole point of it, I finallyrnrealized, was not to travel and seernplaces, but to stay on board to be fed andrnentertained. I disliked the groupiness,rnthe claustrophobic confinement, and thern40/CHRONICLESrnrnrn