Paddle To The Amazon

Paddle To The Amazon

Limited First-Edition,
USA – Hard Cover.
American promotional tour 1989.


(5 customer reviews)

It was crazy. It was unthinkable. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

When Don and Dana Starkell left Winnipeg in a tiny three-seater canoe, they had no idea of the dangers that lay ahead. Two years and 12,180 miles later, father and son had each paddled nearly twenty million strokes, slept on beaches, in jungles and fields, dined on tapir, shark, and heaps of roasted ants.

They encountered piranhas, wild pigs, and hungry alligators. They were arrested, shot at, taken for spies and drug smugglers, and set upon by pirates. They had lived through terrifying hurricanes, food poisoning, and near starvation. And at the same time they had set a record for a thrilling, unforgettable voyage of discovery and old-fashioned adventure.

5 reviews for Paddle To The Amazon

  1. Matt Conner

    Exciting adventure for all ages

    Epic story. Share this with everyone I know. My grandmother very much enjoyed it too

  2. Joan

    Fabulous book

    A wonderful book for armchair adventurers. I never encountered the author before, but was really impressed with his narrative skills and humor. Highly recommend for anyone who loves survival tales.

  3. Trevor Kew

    I read this book as a child (probably I was 12 or 13) and it was one of those stories that stuck with me, given that I lived in a tiny rural Canadian town and yearned for adventure. The fact that the author had done something so simple as get in a canoe and start paddling until he reached other countries was something that I could never forget.

    As the years passed and I moved abroad, I began to do long distance bike trips around Europe, Japan and other places. While “Paddle to the Amazon” was not something I really thought of consciously, it was in there with Dervla Murphy, Wilfred Thesiger, and the many other non-fiction (and even fiction) stories of extreme travel (and survival) that I’ve imbibed through print, screen and my own ears throughout the years. I read it so long ago that I wondered for a while if I’d just imagined reading it (it was, after all, long before Goodreads/the internet/Google that I read it) and even hesitated telling other people about it, until one day I told a group of students who were quite keen on canoeing. They whipped out their phones and sure enough…wow, there it was. I hadn’t dreamed it at all.

    The wonderful coda to this story is that this summer in my hometown, I found a copy of “Paddle to the Amazon” in our local bookshop, in the $2 used book bargain bin, no less. It makes me wonder if it was the same copy! I don’t remember where I got it from…I think some friend of my dad’s loaned it to me. Needless to say, I forked out the two bucks and re-read it eagerly, wondering if the over-25 years since my initial read would have diminished its impact.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth. What a fascinating time capsule it was in some ways: of South/Central America (which has changed so much), of communications, of Canadians themselves. Even of the way we conceive of other places. Starkell was going into places that he had only the foggiest sketchiest ideas of and only the most limited maps. Of course this was true of earlier explorers; but this was the 1980s! On the other hand, reading it in my 30s and as a dad gave me a whole new perspective on the Don/Dana-Jeff dynamic, which is unsettling at times of course, and also of the nature of compulsion, determination, risk, and drive.

    There are certain interesting parallels between this book and Dervla Murphy’s famous “Full Tilt”. Both are raw diary-style narratives lacking at time in terms of literary style and editorial polish (unlike Murphy’s later work, which is stylistically brilliant). And yet both contain this incredible sense of raw experience and wonder that seems missing, or at least elusive, in our modern Googlable world (though my own trips have taught me that this simply is not true if you really do get out there and travel at the speed of a bike/canoe. It’s still a discovery for you, which is all it ever really can be).

    I can’t really convey how compulsive a read this book is. You can’t put it down. There simply is no book (or trip) quite like it.

  4. Mark

    Great adventure reading

    This is one of those books I read to the very last page and wanted to continue reading. It is undeniably one of the most audacious adventures ever undertaken. It’s a good lesson in what’s possible given the courage, drive and ambition (and wrecklessness). I think it’s a good father and son story and I envy the adventure this father was able to give to his son. I appreciated that the author didn’t spend a great deal of time on his life or his relationships. When “adventure” books stray into those areas I lose interest.

    Much of the book reads like a diary (and probably is as he wrote it on the trip). There aren’t any great insights but there was enough depth to hold my interest. Like the actual trek there was always something new around each bend. There is ample description of the people, animals, foods and history along the way. I found the author to be very likeable and i’ve just ordered another book by him: Paddle to the Arctic: The Incredible Story of a Kayak Quest Across the Roof of the World.

  5. Javamon

    You can’t make this stuff up…

    Well, maybe you can but it would take someone with a great deal of imagination to do it.

    Having canoed the Florida Everglades, some of the Gulf of Mexico and some on the Great Lakes I like to consider myself a bit of an adventurer and (at least) a moderately good canoeist. However, Don Starkell’s tale of adventure makes my experiences seem very trivial and insignificant. His canoe journey of over 12,000 miles, through some of the most intimidating environments on the planet, seems impossible.

    What a terrific story of triumph over virtually every type of adversity one can imagination. If you’re an adventurer, nature lover or interested in how far the human spirit can take you this book is a “must read”. The book is so good there is now interest in making a movie based on this adventure.

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Exquisite images . . . courageous, sometimes sensitive, ofen exciting, and always immediate . . . A model expeditionary journal.


Paddle to the Amazon Commemorative

While supples last, we’re giving away an original PTTA promotional tour button with every order.