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From source to sea: An Amazonian walk on the wild side

By Ed Stafford, Special to CNN
  • Watch W1 on CNN International for the latest on Ed's Amazon adventure at 2100 CET / 1900 GMT
  • They walk 50 minutes of every hour carrying up to 45 kg each and then rest for 10 minutes
  • Ed: "Sometimes ... we don't speak all day. Nothing sinister, just complete exhaustion"
  • "We wash whenever we can ... bacteria are rife ... Hygiene is vital"

Editor's Note: Ed Stafford, 34, from Leicestershire, central England, has been walking the length Amazon River since April 2, 2008, to raise awareness of the region. He began his trek at the source of the river in Peru, encountering pit vipers, electric eels, anaconda, mosquitoes and scorpions. He was joined in July 2008 by Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera. The pair are due to reach the shores of the Atlantic on August 9. During his trek Ed has blogged using a laptop and a satellite internet link. You can follow his journey on the Walking the Amazon website. Here, he describes a typical day.

(CNN) -- I wake up with the light, just before 6 a.m., and reach for my vitamin pills hanging above my hammock. I get out of bed and peer through the gloom to see if Cho is up yet and has started the fire. If so, I will probably go to the river and check the fishing net to see if we have a catch.

The water is cold at this time of the morning and a river more than waist deep is a rude awakening to the day.

We cook our staple of farinha (made from cassava root) in a little oil and garlic and wash the dry substance down with sweet coffee. Then we decamp, pack our bags and are on the trail by about 7.30 a.m. -- except there are no trails, of course.

Cho and I take turns up front with the machete. We walk 50 minutes of every hour and rest 10 minutes, so we do 25-minute shifts. It's enough when you have to carry a 35 to 45 kg pack (the weight depends on the quantity of food and duration of the leg.)

When we break for a rest and slump onto our packs we stare at the floor and try and regain the composure to speak to each other. Sometimes this never comes and we don't speak all day. Nothing sinister -- it's just complete exhaustion. We don't lunch; we just keep grazing on farinha and salt.

Video: Walking with the 'Amazon man'
Video: Walking the Amazon

At 3 p.m. we look for a stream or river that might yield fish. A nice deep slow-moving pool is what we are after. Oxbow lakes are great too, packed with piranhas that have loads of succulent white flesh on them.

Occasionally we don't arrive at a river: It's exploratory trekking after all and we don't know what's ahead. The maps we had were useless -- they're intended for plane navigation -- so we now use Google Earth printouts instead.

If we have no water we can't wash, rehydrate or cook properly. It's a grimy night of broken sleep in your hammock. Not pleasant. If we have water, no matter how small the puddle might be, we can make a reservoir from our rucksack liners and bail water into them using our Tupperware boxes.

We wash whenever we can -- every night if possible -- including all the clothes we wore during the day too. If we didn't, we would degrade very quickly. Bacteria are rife and humidity doesn't let cuts heal very quickly. Hygiene is vital.

Watch Ed Stafford dealing with medical problems along the way Video

We then put on a pot of coffee, eat some more farinha (and hopefully fish broth), and sit chatting about our dreams for after the expedition when life starts again. Then we climb into our hammocks. I designed them and had them made up in Colombia. They have mosquito nets and tarps that fit snugly.

I'll answer my emails and upload the footage I've shot in the day. Thursday is blog day, and so I diarize our week for those following us.

My most memorable moment to date would be back in April 2008, when I made the summit of Nevado Mismi in Peru and looked out across the Amazon basin with the knowledge that I'd be walking along it for the next two years. It was both overwhelming and exciting.

My favorite moment was actually far less spectacular. Cho and I had been walking through an area of Peru where everyone was suspicious, scared or aggressive towards us: Myths of organ traffickers were rife and education was limited.

As the sun started to set we were approaching a small jungle town and a little old lady joined me on the path with her granddaughter. They started chatting and the little girl held my hand -- she must have been about five-years old. They walked with us happily until we reached the town, even though by then it was dark.

Oxbow lakes are great too, packed with piranhas that have loads of succulent white flesh on them
--Ed Stafford
  • Amazon Rain Forest
  • Brazil
  • Peru

Cynically, I thought that they were going to ask for money or food but when we arrived they smiled, shook our hands, and wished us good luck before returning to their house, some kilometers back, in the pitch black. They had walked with us out of pure good will. And at that time, when good will had been somewhat lacking, it brought me close to tears.

There have been other moments when I've been close to tears and moments of laughter: For example, last night at 10 p.m. Cho hit the ground with a thud when the pole his hammock was tied to broke in two.

At first I thought he'd injured himself as he couldn't respond, but he was coping with the combination of trying to force himself awake and being quite badly winded! He laughed too, eventually!

As we near the end, the day-to-day business of getting up and putting on wet clothes is tough. The endurance, both mental and physical, has been the thing that's been the most wearing. I've been quite humbled by how much I've had to rely on other people and I've benefited greatly from the generosity of the people I've met along the way.

For the last 840 odd days I've lived and breathed the Amazon, the most amazing place on our planet.

I'll never forget my two-and-a-half years walking along the banks of this spectacular river. Granted, there have been dangers. Cho and I have experienced more drama in two-and-a-half years than most people do in a lifetime.

However, the abiding memories I'll take home to the UK will be my close friendship with Cho -- we're brothers now -- the people we've met, and the life we've lived.

Part of complete coverage on
Introducing Ed and Cho
Ed Stafford has been walking the length of the Amazon River since April 2008.
Trials along the way
With eleven days to go things are already beginning to change for Cho and I.
Re-entering civilisation
Ed Stafford and and Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera finally enter civilization.
Video diary part 1
British adventurer Ed Stafford shares the medical issues he encounters while walking the Amazon.
Video diary part 2
British explorer Ed Stafford shares video from his journey of walking the Amazon.
Video diary part 3
The end is near for British explorer Ed Stafford on his two-year journey across the entire Amazon River.
Video diary part 4
British explorer Ed Stafford discusses the charities he's raising money for as he walks the length of the Amazon River.
Video diary part 5
British explorer Ed Stafford discusses the technology he uses to stay in touch and what he does for fun in the Amazon.