Monday, March 9, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 203: Read “Walking the Amazon” by Ed Stafford

As best that I can remember, the first I that ever heard of Ed Stafford’s “Walking the Amazon” was when the two-part TV documentary about the epic, record-setting journey was broadcast on the Discovery Channel several years ago. Later, I learned that Stafford had also written a book about his journey, and I immediately put it on my bucket list. I started reading it on March 1 and finished it (and scratched it off my bucket list) on Sunday.

For those of you unfamiliar with “Walking the Amazon,” it’s about an 860-day expedition in which Stafford became the first documented person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. Stafford began the expedition on April 2, 2008 at the source of the Amazon River in Camana, Peru, and he finished the trip at the Brazilian mouth of the Amazon River on Aug. 9, 2010. Guinness World Records formally recognized Stafford for his Amazon journey in 2011 and he was also a finalist for National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2010.

Stafford began his journey with a partner named Luke Collyer, but Collyer eventually left the expedition after a few months. Later, Stafford met Cho Rivera, who initially agreed to walk with Stafford for less than a week, but ended up walking with Stafford for over two years. Along the way, a long list of supporters, journalists, interpreters and guides accompanied Stafford on different legs of the journey.

You might think that Stafford’s journey would have been easy for a young, retired British army captain, who had also led various, shorter expeditions before in the jungle. However, despite his best efforts at planning and equipping himself, his Amazonian expedition was plagued by all manner of problems. You name it, it happened, everything from extreme temperatures, bad weather, dehydration, starvation, infected blisters, crippling fatigue, dangerous animals, disease-carrying insects, flooded forests, drug runners, angry natives, language barriers, booby traps, malfunctioning electronics, dwindling funds, inaccurate maps, homesickness, etc., etc.

In its purest essence, “Walking the Amazon” is about the power of sheer determination. Despite all that occurred, Stafford stayed committed to his expedition and single-mindedly willed himself to complete the trip. Using an inspiring combination of brains, resourcefulness and good luck, Stafford overcame all obstacles and reaped the rewards in the end.

During the entire journey, Stafford used 10 video cameras to shoot footage for a movie about his trip, and the two-part documentary about the journey was broadcast in the United Kingdom in February 2011. The book version of the tale, “Walking the Amazon: 860 Days: One Step at a Time,” was also released in 2011. I’ve seen the movie and read the book, and highly recommend both of them.

In the end, how many of you have read “Walking the Amazon”? How many of you have seen the TV documentary? What did you think about them? Do you know of any similar books or documentaries? Let us know in the comments section below.

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