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Early next morning, the tour boat left. By mid-morning, it had nosed into the upper reaches of the river.

They dropped anchor opposite a village. The natives came to the shore to watch, but noone left the launch.

After a while, the boat crew opened cardboard boxes and inflated balloons, sending them in brightly coloured clouds across the water. The villagers, young and old delightedly leapt after the toys, grasping them. Some tethered them to branches. Others hugged their prizes so tightly to their chests that the balloons exploded.

The passengers could be faintly heard, laughing as they crowded by the bow, observing the villagers with field glasses, recording their antics on film.

After an hour when the action died, the anchor was raised and the boat left.

The tour was on a tight schedule. Next attraction was the sighting of a flock of birds.

Stephen Collicoat

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by Stephen Collicoat

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