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article imageBritish adventurer walks entire length of Amazon River

By Igor I. Solar     Aug 11, 2010 in Travel
London - After walking more than 9500 km in an expedition lasting 859 days, from the source of the Amazon River in Peru to its mouth at Belem do Para, Brazil, a former British army captain and a Peruvian companion reached the Atlantic Ocean.
Ed Stafford, age 34, and a British friend began the walk at Mismi Mountain near Arequipa, on the southern coast of Peru, on April 2, 2008. After three months, his partner gave up. Stafford persevered and walked several stretches of the route with the occasional company of some of the hundreds of villagers he met along the way. At one point, a Peruvian forest worker Gadiel "Cho" Sánchez Rivera, age 31, decided to join him and make the trip with Stafford all the way to the Atlantic.
Stafford’s Peruvian companion was supposed to be his guide for just 50 kilometers, but he enjoyed “the simple life" of walking the forest along the river and decided to complete the task along with the British. This is the first time this feat has been accomplished. A reason is that the exact location of the true source of the Amazon River had not been determined with precision until recently. The most distant source of the Amazon was first established in 1996 and most recently confirmed in 2008 as a glacial stream on a peak called Nevado Mismi located about 700 km southeast of Lima in the Peruvian Andes.
Previous similar expeditions are those of Slovenian swimmer Martin Strel in 2007, which set a record by swimming the river from Atalaya in Peru to Belem, and six other expeditions that did the entire route of the river using a combination of boats, kayaks and rowboats instead of walking.
For Ed Stafford, the intention of the trip was to draw world attention to the Amazon. With its walk, the British raised funds for four non-governmental organizations focused on the Environment. He acknowledges that in the beginning, the jungle seemed "scary." Then, it started to change: "What was initially mysterious and dangerous became a place where we felt safe," he said. "We never had more relaxing nights that when we sat in the forest, alone, around the fire."
The expedition however was not free from dangers. Among the problems they faced were coming across an average of four poisonous snakes per day, being stung by wasps at least once a week and bitten by thousands of mosquitoes, and a few threatening encounters with Ashaninka natives.
"We have some very serious situations and sometimes we actually feared for our lives, but we never thought about quitting," said the adventurer. "The fact that everyone told us it was impossible gave us courage."
Despite the dangers of the forest, the only setback occurred when Stafford fainted after walking the night, shortly before arriving to Maruda Beach in the coast of Para, which postponed their arrival to the Atlantic Ocean for a few hours. "I never felt so tired and elated in my entire life," said Ed Stafford, at the time he adjourned his epic trek just before 9 o'clock last Monday.
Today, Stafford was back at Heathrow Airport where he was welcomed by his mother, Barbara.
View of the Amazon River forest near Manaus  Brazil.
View of the Amazon River forest near Manaus, Brazil.
Phil P Harris.
Ed and Cho's adventure can be read at the blog Walkingtheamazon, which Stafford updated through a portable computer and a satellite internet connection. A link to videos of the expedition is also available.
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