I’ve always been fascinated by the the Amazon River.. who isn’t? However, walking the entire 4000 miles of just didn’t seem to be an option for me. But, In what must be one of the most amazing adventure stories ever, 34 year old Ed Stafford a former Captain of the British Army has completed a 4000 mile trek of the Amazon. He started the trek in April of 2008 and has completed it TODAY, 848 days later! What an adventure this must have been! I admit I have not been following Ed’s journey, I actually heard of it only today but I went immediately to his blog of the journey and started reading. It is a fascinating account and highly recommended. Start here to read completely. The server is crowded with visitors right now and crashes are frequent but it is worth it.. some highlights are below with my review.
Ed began in Southern Peru at the Pacific Ocean, with a friend Luke. The first month of the trek took them on narrow trails through the Andes,passing ancient Inca ruins and small communities of people living high in the Andes Mountains. While in the town of Unon, High in the Andes with no roads to connect them to civilization, the villagersthere discussed the noticable effects of climate change on their way of life. Instead of 4 rainy months, the rainfall was reduced to one month with crops becoming affected by the change, despite their interesting irrigation system. Read their blog post on this here.
From April 8th to April 26th, they were maneuvering to get to the “true source” of the Amazon. Their research told them that furthest tributary feeding the Amazon is the “Queberada Carhuasanta” which is a spring from the 5600m mountain, Nevado Mismi. While seeking it and the wooden cross that marked the so called source they found several different markers all identifying the “True Source” of the Amazon. They realized that other springs were evident higher up and decided that it really didnt matter which marker was the true source, they knew they were close enough!
Following the course of Apurimac, an eastern tributary to the Amazon, the effects of climate change were evident in every town they spent time in. It seemed to be a topic that the people of the Andes wanted to get across to the world. Ed and Luke felt that with the advances of civilization reaching more and more remote locations, they were seeing the culture of Andes people changing. Most towns had internet and cell phone access connecting them to the world. Roads were under construction to link towns that previously had no access except by foot or by donkey trail. The world was changing for the rural people of the Andes. Read more here
By July 2008, Luke decided to leave the expedition leaving Ed with his guides, Oz and Luis, to continue without him. It appears that the expedition psychology had taken a toll on them. With little else to focus on, it is common for members of a team to sometimes turn on each other. While they remain friends to this day, Luke left the expedition right as the scenery was changing to Amazon Jungle.
The trip through lands occupied by the Shining Path of Peru following the Ene River was hairy, fraught with difficulties and back tracking. . The best to come from it was meeting up with Cho, and Afro Peruvian guide who stays with Ed to the end of the trip. The worst was the suspicious nature of the Ashnaninkas. The Ashnaninkas way of life is being changed by big oil and logging both legal and illegal. They are very suspicious of strangers and “gringo’s” are met with buckets of water dumped on their heads. There is much fear and rumor surrounding gringo’s in the Amazon. They are met with fear and hostility due to rumors involving organ harvesting and murder. Ed and Cho would approach villages anyway and try to dispel the fear as best they could.