Read One River by Wade Davis Online


In 1974-75, Wade Davis and Tim Plowman traveled the length of South America, living among a dozen Indian tribes, collecting medicinal plants and searching for the origins of coca, the sacred leaf of the Andes and the notorious source of cocaine. It was a journey inspired and made possible by their Harvard mentor, Richard Evans Schultes, the most important scientific explorIn 1974-75, Wade Davis and Tim Plowman traveled the length of South America, living among a dozen Indian tribes, collecting medicinal plants and searching for the origins of coca, the sacred leaf of the Andes and the notorious source of cocaine. It was a journey inspired and made possible by their Harvard mentor, Richard Evans Schultes, the most important scientific explorer in South America in this century, whose exploits rival those of Darwin and the great naturalist explorers of the Victorian age. In 1941, after having identified ololiuqui, the long-lost Aztec hallucinogen, and having collected the first specimens of teonanacatl, the sacred mushroom of Mexico, Schultes took a leave of absence from Harvard and disappeared into the Northwest Amazon of Colombia. Twelve years later, he returned from South America, having gone places no outsider had ever been, mapping uncharted rivers and living among two dozen Indian tribes. He collected some twenty thousand botanical specimens, including three hundred species new to science, and documented the invaluable knowledge of native shamans. The world's leading authority on plant hallucinogens, Schultes was for his students a living link to a distant time when the tropical rain forests stood immense, inviolable, a mantle of green stretching across entire continents. It was a world greatly changed by the time Davis and Plowman began their journey, nearly thirty years later, and changed further today....

Title : One River
Author :
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ISBN : 9780684808864
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 544 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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One River Reviews

  • Lisa
    2019-05-14 02:21

    This book makes me want to study ethnobotany, try a whole whack of obscure hallucinogens, and leave all my worldly possessions behind to explore the Amazon river basin. Surprisingly captivating and dense with wonders. I really ought to read more nonfiction.

  • Chrisl
    2019-05-08 01:39

    6/30/17A quote from Wade, page 68 before moving on the a re-read some Food in History ... "As a man Ames was firmly rooted in the past, yet as a botanist he was curiously ahead of his time. A profoundly original thinker, Ames was one of the few scholars in the country seriously concerned about the origins of cultivated plants. At a time when anthropologists maintained that man was a relatively recent arrival in the New World. Ames published a book that, on the basis of botanical evidence alone, shattered the dogma. Ames noted that in the five thousand years of recorded history not a single major crop had been added to the list of cultivated plants. With the origins of maize and beans, peanuts and tobacco lost in the shadows of prehistory, it was simply unrealistic to assume that agriculture had emerged in the New World within the past ten thousand years. The antiquity of agriculture alone suggested that humans had reached the New World far earlier than anthropologists then believed. He was right, but it would be twenty years or more before his ideas became generally accepted."**(I'm re-reading, briefly, a series of food and diet oriented books ... starting with Abravanel ... For my next read ... visit again with the Seaside Cavemen with Tannahill. Can you imagine being among the first humans to see the shores of western N American?Jomon agriculture intrigues. They were likely seaside cave folk.)Food in History reviewA book to buy as gift for a science oriented family. My own copy feathered with stickies. The Cataloging-in-Publication subjects listed on book's title/info pages : Ethnobotanists ...EthnobotanyHallucinogenic plantsMedicinal plantsSubject Entries I would have added by page 67 :Amazon River RegionAndes MountainsColombia - Description and TravelColombia - HistoryIndians of South America - Tairona Kiowa CultureTairona CivilizationThe narrative portrays a fascinating cast ... it features Harvard University paying scholars to seek the organic gems of the jungles.The Kogi and the frogs.

  • R.K.
    2019-04-27 05:24

    Wade Davis is one of my favorite authors to read. He displays a sensitivity to other cultures that is rare, even to find in an anthropologist and he's a fantastic writer as demonstrated in this paragraph:"Shamanism is arguably the oldest of spiritual endeavors, born as it was at the dawn of human awareness. For our Paleolithic ancestors, death was the first teacher, the first pain, the edge beyond which life as they knew it ended and wonder began. Religion was nursed by mystery, but it was born of the hunt, from the need on the part of humans to rationalize the fact to live they had to kill what they most revered, the animals that gave them life. Rich and complex rituals and myths evolved as an expression of the covenant between the animals and humans, a means of containing within manageable bounds the fear and violence of the hunt and maintaining a certain essential balance between the consciousness of man and the unreasoning impulses of the natural world." I appreciate that Davis shared the story of his mentor and teacher, Richard Schultes. Dr. Schultes had an incredible life, spurred by his love of plants, he lived and traveled around the Amazon rain forest for decades. Not only does Dr. Davis share the fascinating story of his mentor, but he intertwines it with his own experiences in the jungles, the history of Europeans in the region and the uses of various plants. One River weaves the stories of the Amazonian people, the plants, the history of European ignorance, and his own experiences in a colorful fabric for an enjoyable experience.There wasn't much gossip about fellow scientists, but the bit that was there was tedious to read. I still gave the book 5 stars just for the volume of fascinating information contained in this well written book.

  • Michael
    2019-05-21 00:24

    Blew my mind in so many ways. A great tale of adventure in the Amazon region during two important eras, fascinating exploration of the world of plants and human usage, important exploration of human usage of drugs (yage, coca, etc...), and a subtle case for recognition of what we are losing in destroying ancient cultures and this great region of the earth.One of my all-time favorite books!

  • Adam
    2019-05-10 02:41

    I started reading this with the intent of reading some light non-fiction to detox from grad school reading requirements. But I ended up reading one of the best books I've ever read. Longer review probably forthcoming, barring distractions.

  • J.M. Hushour
    2019-05-05 08:21

    'One River' is one part botanical adventure story, one part thoughtful exploration of humanity's relationship to nature. The meat of the narrative is two parallel explorations of the northwestern Amazon and western South America: one, Davis and his colleague tracing the earlier discoveries and collecting expeditions of their mentor, Richard Schultes; the other story is Schultes' journeys throughout the region a few decades before.Although the jumping-about in time can often muddle the flow and make the book as a whole a little meandering, it doesn't detract from the book, though it does leave you feel like there was a lot left untold.At its base, this is a story of ethnobotanists finding weird new plants, experimenting with wide varieties of hallucinogens, and hanging out with Indian tribes that were then virtually unknown. The sheer magnitude and intensity of these journeys, especially Schultes who spent more than a decade river-hopping and discovering hundreds of new species, is awe-inspiring and Davis does a good job highlighting the overarching theme of indigenous knowledge and their ties to the earth, something we nowadays either ignore or take for granted, often at the earth's expense.

  • Constantino Casasbuenas
    2019-05-14 00:51

    Telling the names of gods through plants, rivers, hallucinogenics, industries and languages: what a discovery was reading One River! My wife has read it like ten years ago, and it was only now when I got the time and the motivation to read it, mainly because it inspired the Colombian film "El Abrazo de la Serpiente", nominated for the Oscars, 2016. The film got no Oscar, but the 529 pages told me a story that we have never learned in schools or in the universities in Colombia, Ecuador, Perú or Brazil. People in the Latin American cities know very little about the indigenous cultures living in the forests. One River is a story developed in the Amazon basin, reflecting the medicinal and spiritual life of indigenous communities. The story is told with key references to foreigners like La Condamine (French, 1743), Alexander von Humboldt (German, 1801), Richard Spruce (British botanist, 1853), Richard Evans Schultes (American, 1941), Tim Plowman (American, 1974) and Wade Davis (author). Both Tim and Wade were Schultes' students in Harvard, and the three of them play the central role of telling the many stories articulated by One River, the Amazon. Though the main driver for Schultes' visits to Colombia and the Amazon during 1941-1953 had to do with the need for getting rubber seeds for the USA (war and industry needs), the core of the real story has to do with plants, quinine, hallucinogenics like yagé, coca, yá-kee, yoco, curare, peyote, mushrooms, and the spiritual practices of the many tribes in the region. It tells the story of the Muinane, Bora, Witoto, Miraña, Yukuna, Makuna, Jinogogé, Siona, Waorani, Kofan, Ingá, Karijona, Gwanano and Desano communities, living along the Inírida, Guainía, Kuduyarí, Vaupés, Kananarí, Popeyacá, Miritiparaná, Caquetá, Sucumbíos, Naopo, Orinoco, Putumayo, and many other rivers tributaries of the Amazon. The book is telling the story of an important part of Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. The book also reflects how the private sector (important global companies) are interested in using the indigenous ancestral knowledge. It tells us clearly about the interests moved by the Intercontinental Rubber Company, Coca Cola, Parke-Davis, Royal Dutch Shell, Rubber Development Corporation, Rubber Reserve Company, Shell, Shell-Mera, and the United States Rubber Company. It shows how religious influences became important, like the Jesuits or the Capuchin Order during the Colony, or the Summer Institute of Linguistics or the Wycliffe Bible Translators in modern times. They played the role of articulating belief and interests between the visitors (companies) and the indigenous communities, who were not represented by the governments.All these peoples, all these languages, have developed a deep communication with the plants, with the rivers and the forests. According to Tim Plowman, "when you say the names of the plants, you say the name of the gods". Their Latin names are like koans of lines of verse. The authors tell about their visit to the Kogi and Ika in the Sierra Nevada, and to many other shamans, and how they cultivate "the art of divination, techniques of breathing and meditation that lift one into trance, prayers that give voice to the inner spirit". The book brings together the best botanists in the world, and after many years of an intense experience and long life in the forest, they come to conclude that we do not know how Indians originally made their discoveries. Spruce, Schultes, Plowman and Davis are some of the best people educated by the most advanced universities at the global level during the last 150 years and they go into the daily practice of learning from 'locals' like Adalberto Villafañe, Pedro Juajibioy, Pacho Lopez, José Antonio Pabón, Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff and few research centres. What I find strange (and to some degree disturbing) is to see that One River is written in English, based on the communication that the Spruce and Schultes managed to develop in the local indigenous languages. There is no Spanish or Portuguese translation, which means that most of Latin Americans are missing a fundamental part of their own reality. Because of the strong link that the Amazon keeps with the many variables of Climate Change, One River is an important book to read.

  • Tracy
    2019-05-03 06:28

    It was a little slow, but good story

  • Kat
    2019-04-26 08:37

    Demoré casi un año leyendo este libro por temor a terminarlo. Definitivamente mi libro favorito. Davis narra las exploraciones de Schultes y Plowman de una forma tan rica que uno mismo se siente viajando por el Amazonas. Los usos de las plantas, la coca, el yagé, todo increíblemente bien explicado y acertado. Un libro que todo colombiano debería leer para ver si empezamos a valorar y respetar nuestras culturas y conocimientos ancestrales.

  • Christian Burger
    2019-05-09 08:30

    Even though I am not finished, I can safely put Wade Davis' One River in 5-star territory. There is just some art that you know was completed passionately and with care. There is plenty of source material in case you need your footnotes with your reading. This is one of those. The story itself is the story of an ethnobotonist from Harvard that travels through the Amazon in search of plants and their role in local medicine, culture, and religion. Maybe not to everyone's taste but to those interested in lost cultures, ethnobotony, and true adventure tales, this is an amazing work. Just one example is Schultes' pursuit of hallucinogenic mushrooms that are a strong part of the native population's culture. You learn about the connection between these mushrooms which have been part of their tradition and lore for many centuries and Timothy Leary's psychedelic LSD mushrooms. Not all of the stories have links to contemporary references but some do. You also find out about the rivalry that exists between the various scientists and the strong desire for truth and the science involved even deep in the jungle. Suffice to say, if you reading this inadequate review because you are interested somehow in the subject or the author, simply stop reading the review and just move to the book. You will not be disappointed and you will perhaps think just ever so slightly differently as a result.

  • Paul
    2019-05-18 01:24

    Take a lot of plants, trees, seeds, some of them hallucinogenic, some known, lots unknown, a dog, Botany’s answer to Indiana Jones, his brightest student and another wide eyed yet equally capable student, Rubber, Orchids, Coca, a cast of incredible and wonderful characters and a sizeable chunk of South America and slowly drift down the Amazon river, from one end to the over, from one tributary to the next, and you have, well you have a lot more than One River, I have to say.Much like the river of the title, I imagine anyway, this is a big, sprawling book that seems to be a biography, a travelogue and a study of medicinal and hallucinogenic plants mashed in a great mortar and pestle and pressed onto the pages. Ostensibly dedicated to the memory of Tim Plowman, Wade Davis has written a detailed biography of Richard Evans Schultes (who has become a hero of mine on the basis of this book), as well as the histories of rubber and Coca and their impact, the lives and roles of Indians in the Amazon basin and beyond, and their incredible knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Along the way he travels with Tim, throws in the histories of Richard Spruce, a bit off Alfred Russell Wallace, the Inca’s and even a little bit of Peyote.What this meant was that while reading, I drifted in and out of interest. Just when I got into the life of Richard Schultes, we were back with Wade Davis. Just when you remember what Davis was doing the last time we were with him, we were back with Schultes, or spinning off with a detailed history of whatever it was that Davis was talking about at that point. In complete naivety I came to the book to read about the Amazon and despite thinking I would enjoy the travelogue parts, it is in fact the biography of Schultes that I grew to love, a man with a passion and curiosity for plants that drove through almost any obstacles that nature or man placed in his way which I could only admire more and more throughout the book. Davis also gives detailed history or everything relevant to the narrative. Indeed, the exploits of the rubber barons, particularly Julio Cesar Arana were horrific, and made uncomfortable reading, yet still fascinated me, particularly after all those years of hard work were ended by petty shortsightedness of the US government.It is the sheer breadth of the book that makes it feel like an encyclopedia while reading. The Latin plant names, and technical botanical terms which at the same time piqued my interest in botany, but not quite enough and so kept me at arms length. The switching between Schultes and Davis would have been easier to keep pace with without the additional history of subjects related to where they were or what they were doing, this all made One River feel like three different books.Until.Until I finished. Then it became a great book, filled with seemingly endless information on the Amazon rainforest, and it’s human and flora inhabitants and the adventure for their discovery and their impact on medicine, and in the case of cocaine and rubber, on society and technology across the whole world.By this time Waterton was familiar with the work of Brodie and Bancroft, and one morning he decided to experiment with their technique. He began by injecting the poison into the shoulder of a female donkey. In ten minutes the creature appeared to be dead. Waterton, being rather accomplished with a blade, having bled himself on at least 136 occasions, made a small incision in the animals windpipe and began to inflate its lungs with a bellows. The donkey revived. When Waterton stopped the flow of air, the creature once again succumbed. Resuming artificial respiration, he nursed the animal until the effects of the poison wore off. After two hours the donkey stood up and walked away. This treatment marked a turning point in the history of medicine.It wasn’t until towards the end of the book that I thought of the Indiana Jones comparison for Schultes, and I’m pretty sure it’s a comparison he himself would of not appreciated, maintaining as he did in the book that he hadn’t known any adventures. Yet his journeys up and down rivers and through jungles far outstrip giant rolling boulders and alien crystal skulls. Travelling for days to get treatment for Beriberi and malaria, then continuing with his collecting showed an almost stubborn refusal to let these inconveniences to get in the way of the job in hand. He believed and appreciated the knowledge and expertise of the native indians, making great efforts to understand them and their worldview, which was sometimes completely alien to what he knew and understood himself.These traits influenced both Davis and Tim Plowman, who spent his life researching Coca, before the narcotic derivative took over the known world and forever tarnished a nutritional stimulant used by people for thousands of years before it became a good time drug for everyone. He actually managed to trace it’s evolution throughout the different locations in South America.Coca had been found to contain such impressive amounts of vitamins and minerals that Duke compared it to the average nutritional contents of fifty foods regularly consumed in Latin America. Coca ranked higher than the average in calories, protein, carbohydrate, and fiber. It was also higher in calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, and riboflavin, so much so that one hundred grams of the leaves, the typical daily consumption of a coquero in the Andes, more than satisfied the Recommended Dietary Allowance for these nutrients as well as vitamin E. The amount of calcium in the leaves was extraordinary, more than had ever been reported for any edible plant.So in the end I struggled, I forced myself to finish it before the new year, but it was worth it all. Now that I’ve finished I will delve back in to various bits, particularly one of the final chapters which contained interesting history on the Inca’s. If you like travel writing, you’ll like bits of this, if you like history, you like some of this, if you like biography, you’ll like most of this, If you like botany, you’ll love this. If you like to read about a real life adventurer (Don’t call him Indy) then you’ll definitely love this.(blog reviewhere)

  • Adam
    2019-04-23 01:47

    A really great set of stories detailing the botanical and cultural explorations of two generations of ethnobotanists, Richard Evans Schultes and Wade Davis. It details all of Schultes' exploration of the Amazon basin in the early part of the 20th century, and lends some interesting historical perspective to the rubber-dependent country we live in today. (blight in S. America never allowed for commercial rubber growth, and only when moved to SE. Asia did rubber become available for the myriad uses we have today - if blight ever gets over to SE. Asia, we're all kinda screwed) Without Schultes, we wouldn't have a huge number of modern things we take for granted every day, and his work really laid the foundation to make those things possible.While it does get a little repetitive at points, it's always interesting. If your attention span isn't good for 500 pages of this stuff, you can always get "Shadows in the Sun", another of Davis' books made up mostly of shortened segments of this book.

  • María Rudas
    2019-05-06 00:47

    Este libro me lo recomendaron mucho desde hace diez años y finalmente lo leí. Es un 'must' para biólogos, farmacéuticos y antropólogos. Es el libro en que se basa la película 'El abrazo de la serpiente', la cual aun no he visto, pero ahora sí tengo curiosidad por ver. Narra la forma como Richard Evans Schultes (quien posteriormente sería director del Museo botánico de Harvard) se adentra en la selva amazónica y con muchísima humildad aprende sobre el uso que los indígenas le dan a las plantas, pudiendo posteriormente identificar y aislar sus principios activos. Increíble como por años y sin comodidad alguna este señor fue capaz de navegar por los ríos suramericanos expuesto a enfermedades tropicales y la escasez de alimentos para llegar a lugares donde otros no llegaron. Increíble como el conocimiento que tienen los nativos y que a veces desde la academia es despreciado llevó a tantos descubrimientos.

  • Agnese
    2019-05-22 03:44

    The enthralling account of the exploration of the Amazon forest by ethnobotanists in the 1900s. Led by their passion for the Amazonian flora, Richard Schultes, and later his students including the author, traveled through the forest discovering its plants, rivers and people. A fascinating and inspiring book. I just would have loved to know more about the explorers’ emotions as they encountered peoples, experienced their cultures and lived some unique adventures. The voice of the man beside that of the rigorous scientist would have made the readers’ hearts vibrate more intensely and their minds fly even higher.

  • Johanna Hastay
    2019-05-09 03:39

    A disaster to natural rubber (either bio-terrorism or natural) would devestate the global economy but no one's talking about it. Read this book for an eye-opening review of the history of rubber in the Americas and beyond. The second part of the book deals with cocaine and it's use (as coca leaves) by indigenous folks in South America. Also very timely with regards to the US's war on drugs...almost makes me glad that our government is focused on the Middle East instead of Central and South America still.

  • Giovanni Mora
    2019-05-03 06:50

    Buen libro introductorio a la etnobotánica colombiana utilizando una impecable crónica de viaje atreves del bosque pluvial sur americano.

  • Juan Almonacid
    2019-05-07 04:25

    Tremendo: aventura, conocimiento ancestral, política, botánica, poesía. Promete un río y abarca todo un universo.----------------Hay una tribu en el Uruguay, del grupo guaraní, cuya palabra para el alma era "el sol que está adentro"...Perdonar era la misma palabra que olvidar. No tenían escritura, y cuando vieron por primera vez el papel, lo llamaron la piel de Dios, sólo porque uno podía enviar mensajes con él.-Prosiguió hablando de la fotosíntesis en la forma en que un artista describiría los colores:...Se refirió a la savia como la sangre verde de las plantas, y explicó que la clorofila es estructuralmente casi igual a la sangre humana...Para él los nombres en latín eran como poemas japoneses o versos. Los recordaba sin hacer esfuerzo, encantando por su origen. -Cuando uno pronuncia los nombres de las plantas, pronuncia los nombres de los dioses.-Los kogis le contaron una historia sobre el nacimiento del mundo: al principio todo era agua y oscuridad. No había tierra, ni sol o luna, ni nada vivo. El agua era la Mama Grande. Era la mente dentro de la naturaleza, la fuente de todas las posibilidades. Era la vida naciendo, el vacío, el pensamiento puro...En el principio comenzó a hilar sus pensamientos. En su forma de serpiente colocó un huevo en el vacío, y el huevo se convirtió en el universo.-...los desplazamientos eran en parte una metáfora, que al recorrer la tierra tejían una gran manta sobre la Mama Grande, siendo cada jornada como un hilo, y convirtiéndose así cada migración estacional en una oración por el bienestar del pueblo y de toda la tierra. Los kogis mismos se refieren a sus ires y venires como tejidos.-Para el kogi, los pensamientos de una persona son como hebras. El acto de tejer es el acto de pensar. La tela que tejen y la ropa que llevan se convierten en sus pensamientos...En la sencilla acción de hacer la tela, el tejedor se alinea con todas las fuerzas del universo.-Tanto para los ikas como para los kogis, la tierra está viva. Cada sonido en la montaña es elemento de un lenguaje del espíritu, cada objeto, un símbolo de otras posibilidades. Un templo se convierte en una montaña; una cueva, en un vientre; una totuma con agua, en reflejo del mar. El mar es la memoria de la Mama Grande.-...el chamanismo es uno de los empeños espirituales más antiguos, nacido en los albores de la conciencia humana. Para nuestros antepasados paleolíticos, la muerte fue el primer maestro, el primer dolor, el borde más allá del cual terminaba la vida tal como se conocía y empezaba el asombro. La religión fue fomentada por el misterio, pero éste nació de la cacería, de la necesidad de los seres humanos de racionalizar el hecho de que para vivir tenían que matar lo que más reverenciaban, los animales que les daban la vida. Ricos y complejos rituales y mitos nacieron como expresión del pacto entre los animales y los humanos, un medio de contener dentro de límites manejables el miedo y la violencia de la caza y de mantener un equilibrio esencial entre la conciencia del hombre y los irracionales impulsos del mundo natural. se adaptaba a la perfección a la vida de la selva: los monos aulladores en lo alto, los incesantes ríos de hormigas, los encuentros casuales con serpientes y jaguares, los inquietantes gritos de águilas reales; las mariposas iridiscentes, con su belleza incitante, y las ranas bronceadas y púrpuras, venenosas al tacto. En mi diario anoté los sencillos lujos de la vida en la selva: "El humo de una hoguera que espanta a los insectos, una noche sin lluvia, un rancho de paja en medio del bosque, un banano casi podrido encontrado en una hondonada, sembrados de yuca abandonados, un animal recién cazado y lo que sea: agua lo bastante profunda para bañarse, la insinuación de una cagada sólida, una noche de sueño continuo, un limonero encontrado en el bosque."-Cuando no sabía nada sobre las plantas, vivía el bosque como una maraña de formas, figuras y colores sin significado o profundidad, bello cuando era visto en su totalidad pero en última instancia incomprensible y exótico. Ahora los elementos del mosaico tenían nombres, los nombres implicaban relaciones y las relaciones estaban preñadas de significados.-El yagé la fuente misma de la sabiduría...el vehículo por medio del cual cada persona adquiere poder y experiencia directa de lo gente del yagé les inspira a todos una imagen, una canción y una visión...nadie comparte el mismo motivo o la misma canción. Hay tantas melodías sagradas como personas, y al morir una persona su canción desaparece.-Erosionados por el tiempo y transformados por la lluvia, estos cerros aislados se levantan como centinelas solitarios, serenos y como de otro mundo, sobre un río que se tuerce como una serpiente...le parecían a Schultes ecos del principio de los tiempos, levantándose como gigantescas esculturas abandonadas en el primer taller de Dios. Fue -pensó, a partir de estos experimentos tentativos cuando Dios se dio a la tarea de construir el mundo.-En la época de más lluvias, los animales de la selva vivían en las copas de los árboles, las mulas pastaban metidas en el agua hasta las ancas, y los peces mordisqueaban las ubres de las vacas.-"Masquemos coca, compadre"...El intercambio de hojas es un gesto social, un acto de cortesía y una manera de reconocer el contacto entre los hombres, por tenue o transitorio que sea. El soplo es un acto de reciprocidad espiritual, pues al ofrecer las hojas a la tierra, el individio asegura que con el tiempo la energía de las hojas cerrará un círculo completo, con la misma certeza con que la lluvia que cae sobre un campo renace inevitablemente en forma de nube.-Para los runakunas, las gentes de los Andes, la materia es fluida. Los huesos no son muerte sino vida cristalizada, y por ello una potente fuente de energía, como la piedra con la carga eléctrica de un rayo o de la planta a la que da vida el sol. El agua es vapor, un efluvio de muerte y de misterio, pero en su estado más puro es hielo: la forma de la nieve sobre las faldas de las montañas, los glaciares, que eran el más alto y sagrado destino de los peregrinos. Cuando el cantero inca ponía las manos en la piedra, no sentía la fría materia; sentía la vida, el poder y resonancia de la tierra en su interior...Para la gente de los Andes la tierra está viva, y cada rugosidad del paisaje, cada afloración y colina, cada montaña y todo río tienen un nombre y están imbuidos de significados rituales...Una montaña es un antepasado, un ser protector, y cuantos viven a la sombra de un alto pico comparten su benevolencia o su ira. Los ríos son venas abiertas de la tierra; la Vía Láctea, su contraparte en el firmamento. Los arco iris son serpientes de dos cabezas que surgen de fuentes hundidas en la tierra y que luego se ocultan en ella. Las estrellas fugaces son centellas de plata...El rayo es luz concentrada en su forma más pura.-...las plantas son como la gente, cada cual con su propio genio y su propia historia. Los cactos duermen de noche. Los hongos crecen cuando oyen los trenes, los líquenes sólo en presencia de la voz humana. Las flores solitarias en los campos abiertos no simpatizan con las demás. Las delicadas gencianas pliegan sus pétalos de vergüenza. Las plantas de los setos que se demoran en florecer simplemente son perezosas, maldispuestas a trabajar por la comunidad. Todas las plantas tienen nombres y son útiles.-...había comparado el yagé con un río, con una jornada que lo lleva a uno sobre la tierra y bajo el agua, hasta los confines del mundo, donde viven los amos de los animales y los rayos esperan su nacimiento. Beber yagé volver al útero y renacer. Es romper la placenta de la percepción normal y entrar en reinos donde se puede conocer la muerte y es posible rastrear la vida, mediante la sensación, hasta la fuente primigenia de la existencia. Cuando los chamanes hablan de enfrentarse al jaguar, es porque realmente lo hacen.-Escucha -dijo Tim.Había un zumbido bajo en la tierra, profundo, inconfundible. Un impulso, resonante y completo.-Es el sonido de la vida -dijo-. No hablo en metáforas. Me refiero al sonido real de la vida. Al tono de la energía dentro de nuestras células.

  • Bonnie
    2019-04-26 07:24

    This is an unusual and amazing book that I would probably not have encountered at random. It was highly recommended by my cousin’s son, Greg, who had traveled in South America. I picked it up when we were in SF in March. There are several interwoven journeys here: Tim Plowman’s, Wade Davis’s, and Richard Evans Schultes’s. Richard Spruce is included as well. These men spent substantial time in the Amazon rain forests at different points in time. They were ethnobotanists of the first order, dedicated to their craft of finding and identifying plants unknown to the west yet part and parcel of the lives of the indigenous peoples of South America. Their travels were intense, unpredictable ordeals fraught with dangers due to vicissitudes of weather, political upheaval, disease, and navigating unknown terrain. These men are brilliant, extraordinary people whose desire to immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures is palpable. They learn languages and customs, and the mutual respect between them and the people they encounter speaks to their unusual interpersonal strengths. This is an intricately crafted tome (500 pages). Davis writes beautifully. The subtext involves their search for a species of rubber which would be immune to diseases that attack Asian rubber trees; they are also seeking mother plants of hallucinogens and coca used by the Inca. We learn about the introduction of rubber farming in South America and the enslavement and destruction of indigenous populations. We learn about the use of hallucinogens in religious rituals as well as the benign use of the coca leaf in cultures across the Amazon basin. About the coca leaf:Incredibly, in the midst of this hysterical effort to purge the nation of coca, none of the Peruvian public health officials did the obvious: analyze the leaves to find out just what they contained. It was, after all, a plant consumed each day by millions of their countrymen and women. Had they done so, their rhetoric might have softened. In June 1974, while he was back at Harvard, Tim and his immediate boss at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jim Duke, had obtained a kilogram of sun-dried coca leaves from the Chapare region of Bolivia and arranged for the first comprehensive nutritional assay. Just before Christmas a letter from Duke arrived at the embassy in Lima confirming the results, which were astonishing. All along Tim had maintained that coca was benign, that the amount of cocaine in the leaves was small and absorbed in association with a host of other constituents which no doubt mediated the effect of the alkaloid. It was, he suggested, analogous to coffee or tea. Pure caffeine, extracted from the plants and injected, could not be compared to a cup of tea taken in the morning. He often quoted the physician William Golden Mortimer, who as long ago as 1901 reminded his profession that the effect of cocaine no more represents the effect of the leaves than prussic acid in peach pits represents the effect of peaches.Still, even Tim was amazed by Duke’s letter. Coca had been found to contain such impressive amounts of vitamins and minerals that Duke compared it to the average nutritional contents of fifty foods regularly consumed in Latin America. Coca ranked higher than the average in calories, protein, carbohydrate, and fiber….The amount of calcium in the leaves was extraordinary, more than had ever been reported for any edible plant. This was especially significant. Until the arrival of the Spaniards there were no dairy products in the Andes, and even today milk is rarely consumed. The high level of calcium suggested that coca might have been an essential element of the traditional diet, particularly for nursing women. (pp 418 - 419)They conclude that coca is a cultivated plant that can survive without man’s manipulations. The knowledge of agricultural methods that the Inca possessed was awe-inspiring:….This is the birthplace of potatoes. Some of these farmers have one hundred different varieties growing in a single field, each a little different, each with a name….The implications were extraordinary. In the mountains of the southern Andes we were passing through one of the world’s great centers of plant domestication, equal in significance to the Middle East or China. The development of potatoes began here some six thousand years ago when hunters and gatherers found that by eating certain clay soils they could detoxify the small poisonous tubers of a weedy annual. Over the centuries eight species of wild solanums were brought into cultivation. They learned, for example, to rotate crops every seven years, a practice that confounded the early Spaniards who could not understand why farmers insisted on having but one field under production, with six lying fallow. Such a cycle was in fact essential to prevent potatoes from being destroyed by a common pest, a nematode whose cysts could survive in the ground for only six years.Experimentation was ongoing both before and during the time of the Inca. Just to the west of the road that was carrying us toward the Sacred Valley were the ruins of Moray, three large circular depressions carefully excavated from limestone sinkholes and lined with perfectly formed agricultural terraces. They appear as three giant arenas sculpted from the earth. The largest is 100 feet deep, with a basal diameter of nearly 150 feet. The entire complex turns out to have been an agricultural research station, with each terrace reproducing the growing conditions of different ecological regions of the empire. Vertical stories marked the limits of afternoon sun at the equinoxes and solstices. Silver or gold plate may have lined the terraces to concentrate sunlight. Protected from the elements, the base of the massive excavation is consistently 15 degrees centigrade warmer than ground level, a temperature range equivalent to the average annual difference between London and Bombay. Each terrace thus corresponded to 3,000 feet of altitude, allowing the replication in miniature of twenty distinct ecological zones. Though Moray was built above 11,000 feet, it encapsulated the empire, enabling Inca officials to both anticipate yields from various regions and experiment with new crops. (pp 440-441)Okay, I could just continue typing in long, amazing quotes from this book, but enough. There is SO much fascinating information here. I was talking with my sister Sarajo about this book. She and our sister Loni visited Peru in 2007. Sarajo described the powerful sense of spirituality when their guides took her to one of these ancient agricultural research stations near Cuzco. And that spirituality is another prevailing theme of One River. In the course of their travels and research, Davis, Plowman, and Schultes take part in rituals which involve consumption of hallucinogens and preparations of coca. They enter spirit worlds and describe their experiences. They attempt to “understand a new vision of life itself” (p. 219)While I found this book engrossing, I wish that I had been able to skim through certain passages, but unfortunately I am not good at skimming. I could have done without the descriptions of their hallucinogenic trips as well as the seemingly endless detailed re-creations of their geographic meanderings. My other critique is that I couldn’t follow the mens’ journeys with the map included in the book. If you choose to read One River, I strongly suggest that you have a high quality map of the rivers and villages as that would have been extremely helpful.This book heightens our knowledge of the horrors committed in the name of religion, progress, and civilization. Unfortunately, the decimation of the environment continues. Sarajo sent me this article this morning:

  • Hoagy
    2019-05-19 00:21

    Somebody once told me that all "really interesting" books are road stories. It made sense. But I was writing advertising at the time, so I nodded and moved on to my next beer commercial. If anyone happens to know why someone— a lit major, no doubt— would say such nice things about road stories, please drop me a note.This book is two stories. The background is the story of Richard Evans Schultes. The foreground is the trip by his student Wade Davis. From Simon and Schuster: "In 1941, Professor Richard Evan Schultes took a leave from Harvard and disappeared into the Amazon, where he spent the next twelve years mapping uncharted rivers and living among dozens of Indian tribes. In the 1970s, he sent two prize students, Tim Plowman and Wade Davis, to follow in his footsteps and unveil the botanical secrets of coca, the notorious source of cocaine, a sacred plant known to the Inca as the Divine Leaf of Immortality. . . . One River is a story of two generations of explorers drawn together by the transcendent knowledge of Indian peoples, the visionary realms of the shaman, and the extraordinary plants that sustain all life in a forest that once stood immense and inviolable."

  • Salvador
    2019-04-30 08:37

    I read this book for my studies, writing an essay about the movie "Embrace of the serpent", which has one of the main characters based off Richard Evans Schultes and which's main plot is to find a medical and hallucinogenic plant in the Vaupes region. If you compare the movie and book you do actually find so many parallels and quotes that it becomes apparent this was very read by the producers themselves.After having finished the essay but not yet the book I quickly renewed it in the library to be able to finish it.The book is a well-balanced mix of science, anthropology, history, funny anecdotes, biography and travel journal. It jumps through time to tell the story of both the author himself and his professor Richard Evans Schultes (and their colleagues)You don't need any knowledge of botany or Latin America or anything to enjoy this book, just a general interest tolearn. The only reason I give this book only 4 stars is that it kinda makes me want to travel to the Americas and try natural hallucinogenics myself which is a very very bad idea I blame on the beautiful, vivid descriptions.

  • Tomek
    2019-05-21 08:42

    A beautifully written book which I believe serves as the inspiration for the haunting film: Embrace of the Serpent. Davis takes us on a journey up through the flooded lowland rainforests of Amazonia to the highest Andean peaks. While the goal of this journey is ostensibly to find plants and describe the parallel histories of two ethnobotanists, the real objective is to explore how we relate with peoples and places that we could not imagine in our wildest dreams. Indeed, it is only through these dreams which we can understand each other, ourselves, and our place in this world. Davis deftly weaves biography, science, nature travel writing, and anthropology into a rich tapestry that is sure to enlighten and entertain.

  • James Bateman
    2019-05-21 08:35

    An inspiring adventure I bought this book knowing of Wade Davis only by name, but wanting to learn more about Colombia in preparation for my upcoming trip to the area. What I found was an incredible adventure, a portrait of an exemplary life founded on the pursuit of knowledge, and a new thirst for anthropology. Loved this book!

  • Patrick Kelly
    2019-04-29 07:39

    A wonderful, interesting and well-written book.

  • Diego Ramirez
    2019-04-26 08:22

    An excellent book. It feels like you are exploring the Amazon jungle

  • carolyn
    2019-05-06 06:36

    A book that roams broadly over both time and geography. Fascinating people, adventures, science, and, oh, such stories.

  • Kevin Schuster
    2019-05-14 01:37

    Extraordinary read. Very well written.

  • Josh
    2019-04-23 06:46

    Month-long sojourns into the heart of the Amazon; malaria lurking in every village; indigenous rites that lost all night long; the utter brilliance of naturalists—Harvard-educated and self-taught; psychedelic trips into the brink of madness; the history of a continent of people, slaughtered and tortured and deprived of traditions immemorial; a world unto itself, hidden away in the depths of the forests along the banks of the most formidable rivers ever seen.All that aside, this book is first and foremost the story of an intellectual lineage: one which passes through the lives of Alfred Russel Wallace and Richard Spruce, and situates the incredible life of Richard Evan Shultes—the godfather of ethnobotany—through the lens of his students, Wade Davis and Tim Plowman (accomplished scientists in their own right). As the closing passages describe, the importance of this beautiful book is not in the adventures which led them to their discoveries (riveting though they may be); nor is it in the particulars of the discoveries themselves. It is in the communion between forms of life most disparate (as seen from our eyes), of their deep interdependence and intransigent connections; and it is the realization of that communion present in the minds of so many men, women, and children; voices who make up a tapestry of embodied ecology. But, really, you should read the book if you want to understand, because Davis has mastered the art of weaving together stories and conversations stretched across many decades.The book is, to put it simply, expertly researched—as one would expect from a scientist of Davis' caliber. The only thing that is really missing from the book is a discussion of psychedelics and mysticism which transcends the "merely" pragmatic—though perhaps that elision is intentional.If nothing else, this book will give you an appreciation for the sheer immensity of diversity in plants: not just in their cultural/healing/psychedelic usage, but in their biochemical properties as well. This is a useful lesson to modern ethnobotanists and geneticists, but also to psychonauts and all interested in traditional forms of healing and spirituality.

  • Vince
    2019-05-01 00:38

    That's funny Bill, all I saw was colors.I started reading this after seeing the excellent and haunting movie Embrace of the Serpent earlier this year. That haunting movie tells the story of two explorers, separated by a generation, exploring the mysterious Amazon.The first is Theodor Koch-Grunberg, a German explorer who travelled the Amazon in the first decade of the 20th century. In Embracing the Serpent Theodor is deathly ill and as a final hope is searching for a mysterious plant that he believes can cure him.The second plot is the story of legendary explorer Richard Evan Shultz, "The last of the great plant explorers in the Victorian tradition". In the film Shultz is a young man following in the footsteps of Koch-Grunger, also hoping to uncover the mysteries of 'yakruna'.In a brilliant spiralling continuation, the book One River tells the same story again, one generation later. In this story Shultz is the older explorer and the author Wade Davis is the younger, again following decades later in the footsteps of his mentor. This is a remarkable book. A dizzying mix of intertwined stories from the lives of two explorers motivated by botanical exploration, but in fact telling a story of history lost and vanishing across slices of time. The jungle is the enormous, often impenetrable backdrop to everything in this book, it's vastness shaping and often frustrating the plans of the characters. There's no single narrative here, just jumps between a series of accounts of different expeditions and places and characters and plants. The most impactful ideas aren't directly told but tumble out on their own. This book is many things...It's the story of the life of a scientist and an explorer, and the quest for knowledge as a motivating end in itself. But it's also the story of a completely different, much older kind of knowledge slowly disappearing.It's the story of some of western culture's earliest encounters with the rituals and hallucinogenic plants of the amazon. It's incredibly interesting to read about the hard headed and offhand way that these explorers also take on the inner landscapes of the jungle, and how their discoveries have filtered through to the wider culture in a way that is still unfolding today.It's a story of the atrocities of the rubber boom - surely one of the darker chapters in human history and something I knew nothing about. It's a story of the complicated political history of Latin America, and how culture has been shaped by ecology.Most of all it's the archetypal story of an adventurer encountering otherness, changing it and being changed.I really loved this book. It is tough going at times and it took me a long time to read, with some big breaks. But completely worth the effort. A beautiful record of lives of adventure from a style of exploration that doesn't much happen anymore.

  • Jason
    2019-04-25 03:42

    Davis dishes up myths and adventures and history at an alarming rate in perhaps the first non-fiction "page turner" I've ever read. I never knew so many exciting things could happen in so few pages. Except, unlike a fictional page turner, which yields some sort of conclusion and thus satisfaction for tearing through it, this book gently reminds you how little you know and therefore makes you savor it that much slower so that you won't be left with the task of finding some equally entertaining source of information on South American mysteries. I am told "Wizard of the Upper Amazon" is excellent, but I am dubious I'll ever find anything quite as juicy as this. From an introduction to the genius of Inca civilization, to the history of the rubber tree (the most important modern plant we don't hear about), to the miracle of coca and the ritual consumption of countless hallucinogens, to the birth of the American drug culture, to the simple and mysterious magic of the undisturbed natural phenomenon that is the unforgiving Amazon forest and rivers. Yes, that wasn't a complete sentence, but who needs more when there are so many excellent ones in this book?For those acquainted with Marquez, and Borges and de Bernieres' magical realism, the landscape and culture encountered by centuries of explorers described herein will be instantly recognizable. Inspiration awaits in every chapter. Truly, fact is stranger than fiction. I can't recommend this book enough. To anyone who likes travelogues and adventures, to anyone who likes plants, to any environmentalist, to doctors and budding scientists, or to those looking for a "cure" to anything. The forest has something to offer all of us. The Amazon has definitely jumped up my list of "have to visit" after reading this.I suppose the one downside to this book is that it may be overwhelming to some, the breadth Davis tries to capture. Like other reviewers have noted, there are several full length books lurking in these pages. More depth in all of the topics would have been excellent, and now I'm afraid that if I pursue any of them further I will be sorely disappointed with the readability. But I guess you can't blame Davis for people not writing more non-fiction Amazon adventure tales.

  • Ian Brydon
    2019-05-11 08:28

    I am struggling to decide how to summarise this powerful book. At one level it seamlessly combines anthropology, history, geography and ethnobotany, with sprinklings of pharmacology, shamanism and politics thrown in. It is, however, also a powerful personal memoir of Timothy Plowman. a close friend of the author and widely acknowledged giant of the world of ethnobotany.In the late 1960 and early 1970s Davis was a student of Professor Richard Schultes who was at that time the world's leading authority on the hallucinogens and medicinal plants to be found in the Amazon Basin. In the 1940s he had wandered into the upper reaches of the Amazon and more or less disappeared for about twelve years. During that time he lived with local tribes and experienced numerous shamanistic rites. He returned to his academic life in Harvard twelve years later with a wealth of material and virtually created the discipline of ethnobotany.Though principally an anthropologist himself, Davis became one of Schultes's inner circle, and consequently became acquainted with Plowman, whom Schultes had earmarked as his successor. Plowman spent most of his time retracing Schultes's footsteps, collecting thousands of specimens of plant life and exploring their hallucinogenic properties. (This was long before Colombia became established as the centre of illegal cocaine farming on the industrial scales of today.) Davis travelled south to join Plowman, and much of the book is devoted to recounting their travels.Davis writes with great lucidity and has a great facility for conveying complex ideas with an easy clarity than even the most ignorant of laymen (i.e. me) can readily understand. He also adds a lot of historical insight along the way, making this an immensely interesting and informative book.