Meet Ed Stafford.
His mammoth Amazon trek may just merit comparison with the Antarctic odyssey made by another Brit, Captain Scott.
Stafford, who was born in 1975, began his Amazon expedition on April 2, 2008, at the source of the Amazon, in Camana, Peru, accompanied by his guide, Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera. He was partly driven by an urge to boost awareness of creeping destruction of the Amazon rainforest. He also just wanted to experience an epic adventure.
Armed with a machete and tenacity boosted by fear of embarrassing failure, Stafford duly marched along the river, which runs 4,200 miles eastward before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. Quite a slog.
But on August 9, 2010, Stafford completed his mission despite spectacular tribulation. Find out what the crew-cut hard-charger endured before his eventual emergence on a Brazilian beach.
Here are ten amazing things about Ed Stafford’s marathon Amazon trip:
1. Stafford was drenched in sweat all day, every day. At night, he sprawled on a hammock slung between trees in pitch-darkness.
2. En route to the Atlantic Ocean, Stafford brushed with electric eels, caiman crocodiles, and 20 foot-long anacondas. Ten foot-long venomous snakes also entered the picture.
3. Sometimes, Stafford’s journey bordered on torture. He was racked by skin infections and repeatedly stung by wasps and scorpions. What’s more, he had to pick up to 40 ticks off his body daily. Stafford even had to have a botfly that latched onto him gouged out of his skull.
4. People proved just as challenging as the creatures he encountered. Stafford experienced hostility from drug gangs, loggers and prickly tribes. He had concrete pushed into his mouth by locals who thought he was prospecting for oil. He was also imprisoned, charged with homicide and pursued by Ashaninka Indians packing shotguns, bows and arrows. Had he and his guide reacted aggressively, they would have been killed, he has said.
5. Fueled by a diet of beans and rice plus piranhas and trout that he caught, Stafford took almost two-and-a-half years or 859 days to finish his journey.
6. In the process, Stafford went through no less than nine pairs of shoes.
7. When he and his guide, Cho, finished their incredible trek, they seemed amazingly full of energy. Stafford jumped in the ocean and hugged everyone in sight. In the aftermath, Stafford said he would miss the trust and mutual reliance he established with Cho.
“And we’ll miss the Amazon jungle itself — the deafening insects, the explosion of green foliage, the elegant birds gliding like the nimblest of fighter pilots over the glossy river,” he added, showing his background. Stafford is a former army officer.
8. Everyone originally thought he was nuts, he has said. He added that he was told that he would be killed more times than he could remember.
“But,” he said, “I’m not dead. I’m here now.”
According to Stafford – a stout believer in mind over matter – his journey proves that you can do anything.
9. The only question now is how, after completing one of the world’s last great adventures, Stafford can follow it.
Short of hopping around the globe on one leg, he will struggle, but he may feel disinclined to bother. The famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes called Stafford’s trip “mad but marvellous”. Sir Ranulph also hailed it as “in the top league of expeditions past and present”.
10. Stafford is the first man known to have walked the length of the Amazon on foot. Some have covered it by boat.
In 1637, Portugal product Pedro Teixeira supposedly became the first explorer to traverse the entire length of the river. Droves more aquatic adventurers would follow.
But, until Stafford showed up, brave-hearts who ventured out on foot were deterred by the jungle’s density. Or they died from sickness and native attacks. Or they just mysteriously vanished like Bermuda Triangle victims.