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Running the Amazon

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  1,395 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
The voyage began in the lunar terrain of the Peruvian Andes, where coca leaf is the only remedy against altitude sickness. It continued down rapids so fierce they could swallow a raft in a split second. It ended six months and 4,200 miles later, where the Amazon runs gently into the Atlantic. Joe Kane's personal account of the first expedition to travel the entirety of the ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published December 14th 2011 by Vintage (first published June 17th 1989)
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Pramod Nair
Running the Amazon is a thrilling personal account of a truly remarkable expedition, which traversed the entire 4,200 mile length of the powerful and mysterious Amazon river, of which the author Joe Kane was a participant. Starting from the source of the Amazon in Peruvian Andes a team of explorer’s - 10 men and a woman - travel through punishing terrain and dangerous jungles to finish a unique expedition – tracing the Amazon from it’s source to mouth was never recorded before – at Marajo Bay wh ...more
Frank O'Neill
Oct 10, 2014 Frank O'Neill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend who knew that I had spent a month on the Amazon in a dugout canoe gave me Joe Kane’s book, ‘Running the Amazon’. It’s the story of the first expedition to travel from the source of the great river — 17,000 feet up in the Andes — to its mouth 4,200 miles away in Brazil. I began reading it with a huge dollop of skepticism. After all, I knew it wasn’t as romantic as it seemed. I had spent much of my time on the river swatting no-see-ums during the day, being devoured by mosquitoes at night ...more
Rex Fuller
Dec 11, 2013 Rex Fuller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully told story. From an ice-wall at the source, 17,000 feet up in the Andes, to the taste of salt in the Atlantic at the end, Joe Kane gives us what it was like to make the first transit of the entire length of the Amazon. It's a little surprising to think no one had done it until 1985. Then again, given the near lunacy of the attempt during the 1,000-mile mountain white-water portion... Although none died in the effort, attrition reduced the original party of ten to only four who made ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, biography
Clearly written by an excellent journalist this is a true story about Mr. Kane's expedition on the Amazon, from its source high in the Andes, to its end. His descriptions of the geography, topography and native cultures make it a memorable read, particularly to those interested in South American native culture.
Ben Batchelder
I felt predisposed to like “Running the Amazon” and, while it is a roaring read, came away mildly disappointed. Joe Kane was a journalist who found himself in the right time & place and made the best of it. Asked to join the first full navigation of the Amazon by kayak, despite his lack of river skills, he jumped at joining an expedition of international daredevils – who ended up fighting among themselves almost as much as they fought the river – as the only American. Due to his likable pers ...more
I hard a hard time getting into this then really loved it. I think at first I was just trying so hard to keep up with which parts of the group were going where and rendezvousing when and so forth that it was kind of distracting but when the author gets on the water and goes the full length, well that was so awesome! I'm the kind of person who doesn't wonder "who wants to do that?" and instead wonders "who doesn't want to do that?"
Tyson Titensor
If there were a literary canon of river exploration this book would be near the top of the list. Great read about an important and historic descent. Loved it.
John Nelson
On the whole, this book is a disappointment. The sub-title describes the voyage: "A firsthand account of the only expedition ever to travel the entire 4,200 mile Amazon from its source high in the Andes to its union with the Atlantic Ocean." It was the sort of trip that was "first" only because there's no real reason to make it. The course of the river down from the high Andes is rough enough that no traveler ever would take it solely for the purpose of getting from one place to another, and it ...more
May 21, 2017 Charlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you know NOTHING about river exploration, kayaks, Peru, Brazil, or a little history of the Incas read this book. It's a great travel book for the arm chair traveler and very informative. Easy to follow and one can only marvel at the strength it took to accomplish four thousand miles of river travel with men you hadn't known until this trip
Jan 01, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
Enjoyable travel read detailing the first source-to-sea expedition of the Amazon River. Kane's style is vivid, descriptive, and accessible, like an edition of Outside that doesn't stop before the read wants. Recommended for anyone who enjoys travel and adventure writing, and anyone who has spent time in the Peruvian/Bolivian highlands and wants to take a literary journey back. Also a good read for anyone interested in South American history, Peruvian history, the Incas, '80s guerrilla and narco ...more
Jo Deurbrouck
I liked this book for its well-crafted descriptions. I liked it better yet for its insights into what can go right -- and wrong -- in an adventure team.

But i loved it for its closing words, which said something I've tried to put into words most of my life, just exactly right: "Without a doubt, running the Amazon was the looniest thing I've ever done. That I survived was a matter of luck as much as anything else. I felt relieved when we finished and was happy to get home. I own a house and a car
Aug 19, 2009 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 1989 personal account of a group who began at a tributory high in the Andes and their trials and tribulations with kayaks, rafts, insects, money for supplies, the various Amazon rivers and their conditions, and people they encountered. I read this because we will be cruising from Manaus to the Atlantic ocean in Jan, the last 1000miles of Joe Kane's journey which he detailed the least other than telling about its ongoing ecological destruction at that time. What I enjoyed the most was the early ...more
Owen 'mshengu'
Jul 30, 2012 Owen 'mshengu' rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a gripping tale - full of adventure sans embellishment. I met Joe soon after his adventure and discussed RAN and other conservation issues. Being a flat-water marathon kayaker I was particularly intrigued with the whole trip and measuring of the Amazon (except for Tim Biggs' maniacal whitewater excursions.) The Biggs brothers are an iconic legend in the kayak world as well as Danny's Comrades Marathon prowess back in my homeland of KwaZulu-Natal.

Everyone who I have referred this captiva
Marty Essen
Feb 06, 2013 Marty Essen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am really late in writing this review, as I actually read "Running the Amazon" many years ago. For me the book was life changing, as it inspired me to have my own Amazon adventure, which led to even more adventures all over the world. Although enough time has passed that some of the details of Joe Kane's book have faded from memory. I do remember the story being one hell of a ride--and, of course, the guerrilla gunfire section was unforgettable.

Joe Kane is a talented writer. It's too bad that
Oct 29, 2016 HeavyReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book! It's got all the conflicts: Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Other Man, and even a bit of Man vs. Woman. (There's only one woman on the expedition--the doctor--and she's behind the scenes a lot, offering less chance for conflict.)

This true story is told in the first person by one who lived it--Joe Kane. Kane was recruited as a writer, to chronicle the expedition, but when other kayakers drop out (due to lack of skill, time constraints, and homesickness), he finds
Bobo Johnson
Sep 07, 2007 Bobo Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kane is a straightforward author, and he doesn't clutter this book with an inflated sense of style. His journalistic background shows as he manages to both detach himself from much of the drama and tension of a 12,000-mile voyage down the Amazon, as well as thrust himself into its center.

Experiencing Kane as he grows into a role he never envisioned at the start of the trip makes him an endearing autobiographer, while his keen observations of the life both in the party and in villages scattered
Aug 02, 2013 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is divided into three parts, the first of which I found pretty boring. It got better in part 2, when he actually got on the water. (Part 1 was mostly about hiking.) Some of the facts & historical information is interesting, some is not (about 50/50.) What the book lacked was emotion. When you "travel" 4200 miles of treacherous terrain w/ someone, you'd think you'd get to know him. I did not feel that I got to know the author at all. I'm not a kayaker, and I do give him credit for n ...more
Sep 03, 2014 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
As someone mentioned, this book can be divided into 3 parts: hiking the Apurimac in high altitude Peru, white water rafting the tributaries of the amazon in Peru with a dysfunctional expedition team, then ocean kayaking the flat portions of the amazon tributaries and amazon in Peru and Brazil with one other kayaker when the expedition fell apart. The middle part is the best part, more worthy of a 4 or 5 star rating. Unfortunately, because so much of the adventure was not enjoyable to the author, ...more
Oct 02, 2007 Blaire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
The beginning of this book, which starts in the high Andes, is the best part. It's a riveting adventure story about a surprisingly diverse team of people attempting to descend from the mountains on a wild and relatively unknown stretch of the Amazon. I found the descriptions of the environment fascinating. The conflicts among the a team under stress added to the suspense. You'd have to be kind of nuts in the first place to attempt what these guys did. Once the descent from the mountains is compl ...more
Drew Danko
I like books about paddling and this was a good addition. If you want to measure how tough you are,read this adventure and then ask yourself if you could endure what the expedition party endured. This is also the second adventure book I've read where group dynamics proved significant. Whether mountain climbing or running a dangerous river,you better be sure everyone involved is really compatible.

My only criticism of the book is the author's failure to include an epilogue. I had several questions
Apr 08, 2010 Virginia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent adventure! Wonderful writing!
The story of the first source to sea trip written by a journalist. His descriptions of the journey and human interactions are excellent.
*I learned about the Amazon from the bleak and frigid mountains, down rapids, through the jungle, finally out to the sea.
*I learned about the people who live on the Amazon - the indigenous peoples, farmers, drug lords, village and big city dwellers.
*I learned about leadership - how a true leader can rise without undermi
Bonnie Jeanne
Jan 25, 2009 Bonnie Jeanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
This is one of the first travel narratives I ever read and I have no idea what it was that attracted me to the book. I have no desire to go screaming down a raging river in a thin boat, nor do I have a particular interest in this part of the world (well, no more than I have in any part of the world which is to say I would love to visit most anywhere, but there are some places I want to visit lots more). Anyway...I am glad for whatever it was that drew me to this book more than 15 years ago, beca ...more
Bill Barker
Aug 04, 2013 Bill Barker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. Surprising what an individual with no experience is able to do with the right set of circumstances. I was fascinated about the enterprise and the dynamics of the individuals. The accomplishment was duplicated recently by another group which started from a different location, longer, thus claiming another first. This was published in a recent edition of Kayak and Canoe. Regardless, it does not diminish the drama and fortitude of the party who completed this journey, all so ...more
C Christensen
Sep 25, 2015 C Christensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although this story took place in 1985, the pre-technology era enriches the story and the truth behind humans taking on an enormous task. Planning, leadership, relationship, pride, and romance; it all takes the rapids again and again. It might be the fact that he lived to write the book that keeps a thread of hope alive as you travel down the mighty Amazon, intrepid of the next adventure around the bend.
Nov 27, 2011 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A journalist who can't kayak joins an expedition to follow the Amazon from its source high in the Andes to its conclusion flowing into the ocean. He does a decent job of describing the incredible experience (escaping near-death from rapids, the Shining Path guerrillas, drug lords, seeing poor villages that never have contact with the outside world), but it is continually tiring that the expedition leader seems almost incompetent, yet jealously guards his supposed authority.
Jul 23, 2011 Micaela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adventure seekers
Shelves: 2012
I think I am going to have to give up on books about the Amazon and the jungle in general, because no one can write about it in a way that actually TAKES me there. The best description I have read so far was Ann Patchett's, and that was fiction! Although the author did something amazing, spent way too much time describing one tiny part of the trip, and by the time I was half way though, I was bored out of my mind.
Oct 05, 2009 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teo smite
May 17, 2014 Teo smite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow starting book since the author walked the beginning of the river where I was expecting descriptions of the water and its challenges.
Once it hooked me the book described the incredible changes of people, scenery and civilizations along the way. It helped that the author was on the water for the last 2/3rds of the narrative.
Jan 07, 2011 ingrid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of one of the five most important explorations in recent times...1 or 2 people kayaking the Amazon (660 kilometers) from its source in the Andes of Peru, where they were freezing and had altitude sickness, to the mouth of the Amazon at the Atlantic. Took them 6 months. A harrowing and yet human tale. Very well written and very gripping
Nov 18, 2009 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought his tone was patronizing, and the descriptions of the culture shortsighted. He considered himself a "sophisticate" bringing "news of the modern world to wide-eyed primitives". That, in a nutshell, is his attitude towards a large percentage of the Peruvian and Brazilian population. (Sorry Marcie)
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“There is an inherent, humbling cruelty to learning how to run white water. In most other so-called "adrenaline" sports—skiing, surfing and rock climbing come to mind—one attains mastery, or the illusion of it, only after long apprenticeship, after enduring falls and tumbles, the fatigue of training previously unused muscles, the discipline of developing a new and initially awkward set of skills.
Running white water is fundamentally different. With a little luck one is immediately able to travel long distances, often at great speeds, with only a rudimentary command of the sport's essential skills and about as much physical stamina as it takes to ride a bicycle downhill. At the beginning, at least, white-water adrenaline comes cheap.
It's the river doing the work, of course, but like a teenager with a hot car, one forgets what the true power source is. Arrogance reigns. The river seems all smoke and mirrors, lots of bark (you hear it chortling away beneath you, crunching boulders), but not much bite. You think: Let's get on with it! Let's run this damn river!
And then maybe the raft hits a drop in the river— say, a short, hidden waterfall. Or maybe a wave reaches up and flicks the boat on its side as easily as a horse swatting flies with its tail. Maybe you're thrown suddenly into the center of the raft, and the floor bounces back and punts you overboard. Maybe you just fall right off the side of the raft so fast you don't realize what's happening.
It doesn't matter. The results are the same.
The world goes dark. The river— the word hardly does justice to the churning mess enveloping you— the river tumbles you like so much laundry. It punches the air from your lungs. You're helpless. Swimming is a joke. You know for a fact that you are drowning. For the first time you understand the strength of the insouciant monster that has swallowed you.
Maybe you travel a hundred feet before you surface (the current is moving that fast). And another hundred feet—just short of a truly fearsome plunge, one that will surely kill you— before you see the rescue lines. You're hauled to shore wearing a sheepish grin and a look in your eye that is equal parts confusion, respect, and raw fear.
That is River Lesson Number One. Everyone suffers it. And every time you get the least bit cocky, every time you think you have finally figured out what the river is all about, you suffer it all over again.”
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