Shades of Thor Heyerdahl’s classic The Kon-Tiki Expedition flit around the edges of this incredible tale of survival against the odds. But unlike the almost superhumanly resourceful Heyerdahl, Holly Fitzgerald and husband Fritz are much more relatable heroes. An ordinary, if adventurous, young couple who must dig deep to find inner reserves they never thought possible, in a life-or-death struggle with mother nature.
Fitzgerald’s story of surviving a crash in Peru – only to wind up trapped on a raft in a swamp somewhere off the tumultuous Madre de Dios river – is the stuff fictional epics are made of. But this story is all too real. Fitzgerald’s is a tale that must be read to be believed.
It’s early 1973. After two years of marriage, Fritz and Holly have fled uncomfortable domesticity for the biggest trip of their lives. But their so-called ‘second honeymoon’ is set on a crash course with destiny when a their plane takes a nose dive, leaving them with few options but to hole up in the Peruvian jungle outpost Sepa – a place so remote that a transport vessel only visits every few months.
Stranded until the next ship turns up, when a fellow guest at their hotel tells the couple they could easily raft out along the river, Holly jumps at the chance. Initially reluctant, Fritz is soon in on the allegedly ‘foolproof’ plan. The couple set off on a balsa wood raft carried along by the river’s tide, with only the ‘Pink Place’ (a homemade plastic tent) for shelter from the elements. But while everything seems idyllic at first, it doesn’t take long before the journey is blown seriously off course. Finally, becalmed in a swampland far from any hope of rescue, the pair must pit themselves against seemingly insurmountable odds. Starving, without the skills or knowledge to find food, will they both live to tell the tale?
This adventure pulls us deep into the wilderness and back to a time before mobile devices and GPS tracking. A time when adventure could easily turn sour, and lost really was lost. Holly, herself a fearless adventurer, offers a generous account of her husband, and a sympathetic protagonist.
While she is pushed to her limit, she retains her sense of loving humanity – presenting a compelling portrait of a couple brought together by shared adversity. After all, as she wryly observes, being trapped at home with an absentee husband seemed a much scarier fate than the one that pits them both – together – against the odds.
This is a grippingly human tale, one readers will consume in a single sitting – filled with a renewed sense of adventure, and an appreciation for the handy contents of a well-stocked fridge.
Holly FitzGerald was born in Seattle, Washington, and grew up in Woodbridge, Connecticut. She graduated from Lake Erie College and received a master’s degree in counseling from Suffolk University. FitzGerald was a therapist for adults, children and families for many years before teaching and counseling at Bristol Community College, New Bedford, Massachusetts. She lives with her husband in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.