Emma Tamsin Kelty spoke often of her ‘can-do’ hat. The expression pops up in the 43-year-old British adventurer’s correspondence with experienced Amazon paddlers who warned her about the dangers of kayaking the world’s greatest river alone and unsupported. That feat has never been accomplished for many reasons, from the difficult whitewater in the headwaters to the mind-numbing distance of more than 4,000 miles. But the biggest danger on the Amazon is not the river itself, or wild animals or disease. It’s people.

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