By Eli Mangold, Viva Editorial Intern
Ed Stafford and his companion, Cho. Image courtesy Walking the Amazon.
After 859 days, Ed Stafford completed his goal of walking the entire length of the Amazon River on August 9th. His journey, which spanned 4,000 miles, was full of countless run-ins with less-than-savory reptiles and insects, as well as Amazonian tribes.
Before beginning his walk, Stafford was a captain in the British Army until 2002 and was a UN security advisor in Afghanistan. According to his blog, Walking the Amazon, he had run remote expeditions all over the world, including various countries in Latin America.
His primary motivation for the trek was not to raise awareness or charity money, rather, in the spirit of a true adventurer he just wanted to do something no one else had accomplished before. However, during the course of the trip Stafford witnessed vast swaths of logged rainforest and hopes that his expedition will help connect more people to the environmental problems facing the Amazon. He also wants the feat of endurance to inspire people into setting out on adventures of their own.
The journey began on April 2nd, 2008 on the coast of Peru, with a fellow companion that dropped out after three months. Five months into in the journey, Stafford was joined by a Peruvian forestry worker, Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera, and the two completed the trek together. However, along the way they were joined by hundreds of people that walked with them for a few hours—and some even for a few months!
Stafford’s trek was fraught with microscopic, reptilian and human dangers, including stomach illnesses, giant caimans and anacondas, skin-boring insects and territorial local tribes. At one point, the two were seized by a remote tribe and stripped-down in front of the tribal elder. Ultimately they received the tribe’s blessing after they explained their purpose. On some days, the team would burn 6,000 calories apiece, but only consume half of that.
The incredible physical stress of the journey caught up Stafford just 53 miles from the finish line, when Stafford collapsed from exhaustion on the side of the road. He suffered from severe disorientation and developed a mysterious full-body rash, but after a few hours of rest was able to set off again. Trailed by a carload of Brazilian reporters and other news organizations, Stafford and Cho walked 53 miles in 21 hours on the last day. Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, Stafford and Cho sprayed each other with champagne and swam in the ocean.
Stafford hopes to set off on another record-breaking journey in September of 2011, but will not disclose its details so that somebody doesn’t beat him to it.