By Jim Hagerty
A former British Army captain became the first person to complete a 4,000-mile hike along the Amazon River this week, capping a journey that began more than two years ago.
Ed Stafford left to tame the Amazon banks April 2, 2008, from Camana, Peru. The trek ended Monday, Aug. 9, at Brazil’s Maruda Beach. The hike lasted 859 days.
Stafford was joined by Peruvian forester Gadiel Sanchez Rivera, who, after being commissioned as a guide for five days, decided to make the trip himself.
When Stafford arrived in Brazil, he realized he had proven people wrong and, most importantly, emerged a person he was not when the journey began.
“I’m more tired and more elated than I’ve ever been in my life,” Stafford said. “We’ve lived through some very serious situations, and there have been times when we genuinely feared for our lives, but we never ever thought of giving up. The fact that everyone told us it was impossible spurred us on.”
Being spurred on enabled Stafford to see an area of the world he’d only read about in stories of terror, danger and mystery. Warriors, the two tamed the jungle, not knowing what to expect. Clad in traditional hiking gear and psychological suits of armor, Stafford and Rivera fought through mosquitoes, electric eels and deadly snakes. They also stumbled upon hostile indigenous people who may have killed the hikers if not for selfless battle instincts powered purely by clarity of mind and palpable adrenaline.
Even after Stafford contracted a skin disease and Rivera suffered a machete gash, the vision remained clear. The hikers were welcomed in several Brazilian villages between battles with the forest’s phantoms.
Stafford had never seen the Amazon before 2008. He returned home to Leicestershire, England, Monday morning.
“At first, it was terrifying, but it’s changed in our eyes during the expedition,” Stafford said. “A place that was once mysterious and dangerous to us is now a place where we feel safe. It’s not a scary place for us now. It’s beautiful. We’ve fallen in love with it, and it feels like home. I’m committed now to this place for the rest of my life.”
Outdoors news and photos can be sent directly to Jim Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org. Glossies and hard-copy press kits can be mailed or delivered to The Rock River Times’ office at 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101. Jim can be reached at (815) 964-9767.
From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue