knowing nothing of life in the jungle, virtually unequipped by modern standards, had been both amazingly presumptuous and reckless. Bonpland did not even know how to swim. Yet they withstood the broiling climate and every other kind of tropical discomfort with little more to protect them than their own “cheerful character,” as Humboldt noted. “With some gaiety of temper,” he said, “with feelings of mutual good will, and with a vivid taste for the majestic grandeur of these vast valleys of rivers, travelers easily supported evils that become habitual.” The mosquitoes he described as being an atmosphere unto themselves, covering the face, the hands, filling the nostrils. Invariably, he said, they “occasion coughing and sneezing whenever any attempt is made to speak in the open air”—terrible punishment for someone who so loved to talk. To avoid the suffocating heat, he and Bonpland often started the day at two in the morning. Their only salvation from the mosquitoes was to bury themselves in sand. Toward the end of their journey back down the Orinoco, both men came down with typhoid fever. Bonpland very nearly died, but Humboldt, who had been troubled by ill health most of his life, made a rapid recovery and except for that one instance remained perfectly fit throughout, healthier than at any time in his life. He seemed made for the tropics. The days were never long enough. His spirits soared. This for him was life at its fullest and best. “I could not possibly have been placed in circumstances more highly favorable for study and exploration,” he wrote to his brother. “I am free from the distractions constantly arising in civilized life from social claims. Nature offers unceasingly the most novel and fascinating objects for learning.” McCullough, David. Brave Companions (p. 8). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. McCullough, David. Brave Companions (p. 8). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. McCullough, David. Brave Companions (pp. 7-8). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

— How hard life is – jungle  

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