It seems to be all about Amazon adventures these days! You probably heard about Blue Peter presenter Helen Skeltons’ 2010 mile kayak down the Amazon River in aid of Sport Relief. Have you also heard about Ed Stafford’s Amazon expedition?
On April 2nd 2008 Ed (33, from Leicestershire), set off to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. No man has ever done what he is attempting to do. Since leaving its source high in Peru he has been going 695 days. He has just left Manaus, a large jungle town in Brazil, and will keep walking until he reaches the Atlantic coast hopefully in August 2010.
So far he has been arrested on suspicion of murder, held by police because of incorrect documentation, had concrete stuffed in his mouth by hostile Peruvian, been chased by Ashaninka Indians armed with bows, arrows, and shotguns, survived venomous snakes, floods, electric eels, piranhas, starvation, scurvy, hostile local tribes, andcelibacy. Ed hopes that his blogs and videos will engage people with the subject of climate change and specifically deforestation in the Amazon.
We got in touch with Ed and the team to find out more about this amazing adventure.
He is not really walking all of it, is he?
Yes. No form of transport of any kind may be used to assist with Eds advance on land he has to walk, stumble or crawl every inch of the journey. Whether its ox-bow lakes, tributaries (some over ten miles wide), flooded forest over head height, or the main channel of the river itself, there are many water obstacles that have to be crossed too. He swims, uses dug out canoes or inflatable rafts he is carrying to cross these. When he gets to the other side, he walks back upstream to the point parallel to where he crossed he will not gain even one step forwards by any means other than foot. What is the route?
Ed is attempting to cross the whole of South America from Camana (on the Pacific coast of Peru) to the mouth of the Amazon River (on the Atlantic coast of Brazil) via the course of the longest source of the Amazon River. Ed walked up the Colca Canyon to get himself to the recognised furthest source of the Amazon on Nevado Mismi. From there, the rivers to follow are the Apurimac, Ene, Tambo, Ucayali, Peruvian and Colombian Amazonas, Solimes, and the Brazilian Amazonas.
Never been done before?
No. Surprisingly, only a handful of people have ever travelled the entire journey from the source of the Amazon to the massive mouth and maze-like delta. This is partly because up until the second half of the twentieth century, no one was certain where the source actually was.
Before aerial mapping in the 1950s, the Maran River system in northern Peru was considered the source of the Amazon. Recent topographical maps created by Perus Instituto Geogrfico Militar, however, show that the Apurimac River system is now the longest Amazon tributary.
Now that the true source has been found, walking from the source to the sea is one of the last great feats of exploration.
Is he on his own?
No, Ed is currently walking with Cho, a local guide, and has been joined by friends for different periods. He does not have a support team though. He carries everything he needs in his rucksack on his back. One integral piece of kit is his Macbook and satellite phone, which he uses to broadcast his films and share his experiences via blog and twitter.
Being taken hostage by Asheninka Indians has to be up there! You can read Eds version of the story in this additional insert.
Sounds like a mad day in anyones books. Asheninka Indians aside, what is the hardest thing about day to day life in the jungle?
The duration. We have walked (well I have) over 690 days now. Thats a lot of time to stay motivated and excited about your little trip. Motivation the top two inches is the toughest part. Cho and I are physically rugged enough to just keep going its when we get mentally broken down (tired) that we start to slow.
Any creatures you have had particular problems with?
Pit vipers are ridiculously common here. They are so camouflaged that unless they move to strike you just dont see them. They are like the Magic Eye puzzle game in the 80s where you had to make yourself slightly cross eyed to see the picture in the pattern. When the snake prepares to strike you get a bolt of adrenaline straight up your spine and react in a flash.
We have 48 hours of polyvalent antivenin and a satellite rescue beacon with a good insurance package but Cho and I know if there is a serious problem that needs immediate medical attention then we are dead. Period. We are often weeks from medical help.
Im sure there are a few people reading this who are now asking themselves. why on earth?!
Ed: Because the Amazon is the biggest and most diverse rainforest in the world. And Id never been there.
Walking the Amazon is not an eco-warrior campaign against deforestation or an activist project for indigenous peoples rights. It is a world-first expedition, first and foremost.
The focus is on creating an adventure so exciting that it can suck people into the Amazon so that they can see it, touch it, smell it and know it.
Deforestation is a hugely important issue for all of us, and the more people that care about the Amazon the better. Ed has met some amazing people on his journey, many of whom have helped him to understand that the problems that face the Amazon are not the fault of the average Amazonian, they are driven by consumer demand from the West.
To get people to listen, we need to enthuse and inspire them that it is worth worrying about, rather than forcing arguments down the throats of those that dont care.
Think we have got a chance?
Ed: Ben Fogle recently said he thought we were heading for a Green Revolution. For me I think the word revolution conjures images of uprisings and revolt but he has a point – we have to evolve to make the planet sustainable. Do your bit everyone!
I couldnt agree more. Lets finish on a warm fuzzy note. Most positive experience so far?
Ed: Rural Brazilian hospitality is by far the most beautiful thing I have seen. Its humbling to see how kind people can be. These people have got something VERY right.
We would like to wish Ed and Cho the best of luck for the rest of the journey a true much better adventure if ever we saw one.
You can follow their progress and see the latest videos on www.walkingtheamazon.com.
Ed is currently looking for sponsorship to help the expedition continue. Please go to the donate page of the website and help this mission get accomplished. Twitter: @amazonwalkersJoin their Facebook group
Fancy checking out the Brazilian Amazon and contributing to conservation efforts? Have a look at Cristalino Lodge, one of our latest members.