A passion for adventure, a relentless desire to travel off the beaten path and the completion of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal fueled AmaWaterways’ Co-Founder and President, Rudi Schreiner, to innovate river cruising, earning him the well-deserved nickname, "the Godfather of River Cruising."
The Austrian Sikkim-Nepal Expedition
Growing up in Vienna, Austria, close to the Danube River, Rudi has always had a deep connection to rivers, but this is only part of the story that ignited his river cruise vision. It was 1973. As a 21-year-old studying architecture at the Technical University of Vienna, a thrill-seeking Rudi, his roommate Martin Uitz and his friend Richard Gippelhauser embarked on a research mission to study how social structure in Nepal affected the architecture of communities. Funded by the Ministry of Education, the students’ trip would turn into a life-changing seven months spent driving from Vienna to Nepal, with diversions in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most peaceful yet transformative part of the young men’s experience was during their time among the rural Limbu tribe in Eastern Nepal. The Nepalese rice farmers had taken up residence in the unspoiled landscape near the third highest mountain in the world: Kangchenjunga, where it is believed by some there is a valley of immortality.
The Big Adventure
When the trio returned from their 7-month journey, they sold their story, "The Big Adventure is Not Dead," to the largest newspaper in Austria, the Kronen Zeitung. The paper’s cover page showed a photo featuring the three young men standing on top of their Volkswagen van in front of the Himalaya Mountains. Their 20- week two-page Sunday story sparked the interest of more than one car company to entice the young men to promote their brand on their next journey.
So, in October 1974, the men drove all the way from New York down through Central America to Peru in a Mercedes Benz van, arriving in April 1975 in the Peruvian Amazon. During their six-month journey, Rudi built his first river vessel, a raft, and researched the Achuara tribe, a subgroup of the Jivaroan indigenous peoples who hunt for and shrink heads, close to the Ecuadorian border.
Rather than focusing their research on major tourist sites like Machu Picchu, the young travelers concentrated on the stories of the people they met. They visited Honduras after a hurricane and witnessed the devastation firsthand. They visited Nicaragua after a major earthquake. They stayed in the Archbishop’s Palace in Lima. With their press pass from the paper, Rudi and his friend were allowed almost anywhere. They also spent more time with the Jivaroan tribal Indians.