Amazon River - Sunbeams pierce my hammock before reaching my eyelids.
While I struggle to sit up, other passengers mill about in the few narrow spaces available on the dusty boat deck. They're doing things like this: hanging clothes, checking the vital signs of slowly dying turtles, breastfeeding, smoking cigarettes, reading newspapers, singing and watching the steaming cappuccino-coloured water flow by.
We're on the four-day boat trip on the Amazon River from Leticia, the southernmost point of Colombia, to Iquitos, Peru.
Fast ferries make the trip in 10 hours but cost three times as much, so less well-off locals and budget travellers trying to make the most of their open plane tickets usually wind up here, squished together.
The boat is a smoky, three-storey beast. The decks are open-sided and stuffed with things like this: multicoloured hammocks, bunches of green plantain, planks of wood and overheated people. "Urination Prohibited" messages are painted every few feet on the walls, a sinister reminder of the four toilets available for a few hundred people.
A little girl walks around handing out steaming mugs whose contents, though initially promising, turn out to be a hot oatmeal drink, a euphemism for gruel. And we each receive a bread crisp (in ordinary parlance a stale crust).
I swallow the grey, sinewy drink and resume my hammock swinging. At 1 pm we get a small plate of rice and plantain. At 6 we receive a cup of weak, stingingly sweet coffee and another bread crisp. In between we sleep. And we pace. And we swing.
On day two I notice my swings have gotten smaller. While I slept, several new passengers boarding from tiny Amazonian ports have tied up their hammocks around me.
My neighbours' most minute movements become relevant. Why does he stick out his elbow to scratch his forehead? Why does he turn the pages of his paper so fast? I try to hide in my book, but claustrophobia consumes me. I have an urge to flail around wildly, kicking and punching and rolling around on the floor. But instead I stare off into the monotonous jungle panorama. I scratch my mosquito bites. I wait for my gruel.
On day three I've mastered motionlessness. When the boat docks at yet another quaint port full of houses on stilts and dried fish markets and coconut vendors, I don't even stir. I have already dutifully visited every town, sampled the food, told people where I am from, where I am going, what I do for a living back home. I'm tired. I'm lonely.
My back hurts from lying around so much. I'm bored and uninspired and have been so incredibly overexposed to images of this river, these boats, these towns, these markets that I feel as though I'm watching an enormous television. Complete with the glass wall that keeps me out.
My daily life has been reduced to breaks: chapter breaks, pacing breaks, stretching breaks, rice breaks. I keep sane by waiting for the oily rice that will be shovelled into my mouth while I balance my plate on my lower lip and then swallowed immediately.
Inside my motionless body is a racing mind.
What is this trip? Why am I in this self-imposed prison until we dock, or even until my flight back, so many months ahead? I lie on my stomach on the moist, dusty deck just to feel a sensation on my skin other than my scratchy hammock.
I want to go home. But I still need some intangible thing beyond this 3-D animation of the Discovery Channel, something more than successfully having obtained daily doses of alimentation, movement and sleep. I look over the rail and imagine jumping into the water, but the stench squelches that daydream.
Pairs of ankles glide past my face. One turns into a teenage girl with a soft, calm face sitting on the floor next to me. She either ignores or doesn't notice the thorny force field I'm projecting and asks where I'm from, where I'm going, what I do.
She gives me a melting chocolate truffle, which, after three days of gruel, is tantamount to a full sack of loot with a big dollar sign on it. She tells me about her grandma's house, other boat trips, why she doesn't like boys.
She tells me about her school uniform, what she wants to study in university and her spoiled brother who totally thinks he's the best (but turns out, in fact, to not be the best).
I lie there, mostly listening, sometimes responding, half my face and lips squashed up on the floor like a dead fish. Looking up, I see that the identical trees drifting behind her silhouette actually all look a bit different.
I see the drying meat dangling from the windowsill that will become a delicious feast. I hear the men laughing and playing cards and the women gossiping while they make belts and bracelets, and everything changes. Becomes part of a place with its own history and pace. Forms a world beyond the classic images it is known for.
The water still smells of fish and mud, but that's not why I've lost the urge to jump ship.