The Amazon Man

Poisonous Insects, Fearsome Reptiles, Hostile Tribes and Deadly Environments are everything that a person would have to overcome to survive an expedition in the Amazon Rainforest. Explorer Ed Stafford is the first person ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon; SAMSON Magazine spoke to him about this remarkable feat of human endurance and determination. 

 
 

MATT

Thank you Ed for speaking with us! How far in total did you walk when you travelled the entire length of the Amazon and also how long did it take you?!

 

ED

It was approximately 4,000 miles give or take and it took me 860 days to complete?

 

MATT

That is incredible, what an achievement. What would you say was your most exciting moment of the whole experience?

 

ED

Finishing! Running down the beach into the Atlantic Ocean after almost TWO AND A HALF YEARS of walking through the Forest had to be the best - and proudest - moment of my life to date I would say.

 

MATT

An expedition like that must have involved a great deal of preparation. What planning, training and also precautions did you take?

 

ED

Ha! Well I'm actually a former infantry officer who has undertaken several other jungle expeditions before, so actually that side of it was quite straight forward to be honest. But flippancy aside, I had a rescue beacon that was linked up to 4 ex-SAS guys who would in theory, have flown out to the Amazon to come and rescue me if I got into any trouble. However, once I was in amongst the dense trees I knew that wouldn't work - it would be delayed so much that I realised that essentially, I was on my own and if I encountered any kind of trouble that I would have to deal with it myself! 

 
 

MATT

Wow that is scary! Did you have any terrifying moments during your journey then?

 

ED

Yes, I was held up at gunpoint by drug traffickers and also held up at arrow-point by some angry tribe members! I was scared for much of the journey to be honest as everyone I encountered said I was going to die! I also had concrete shoved in my mouth by one tribe and water thrown over me by another. I had red plant dye smeared all over my face too at one point. The problem was that many of these tribes have had bad experiences with some people in the past so I had to prove to them that I wasn't a threat, time and time again throughout my journey.

 

MATT

That must have been quite an ordeal to say the least. You surely also encountered a vast amount of Wildlife species along the way?

 

ED

Yes! I came across Electric eels that can drown a person by electrocuting them. Also Jaguars,  Anacondas, Vipers, Monkeys, Giant Anteaters, Giant Otters and much more...the list is endless!

 

MATT

What did you eat while you were there?

 

ED

I started off carrying tins of tuna, corned beef and sardines. Then loads of pasta and rice. This worked well in Peru as we were doing relatively short hops between villages and indigenous communities. As we entered Brazil the distances got longer (3 weeks of walking and sometimes more) so we had to ditch carrying protein completely and just take carbs in the form of farine - an Amazon food made from manioc root. This meant however that at night we had to look for a good river to fish in and spend time catching our own food. Piranhas were the easiest to catch - once you caught one you just chopped it up and used it as bait to catch loads more. 

 
 

MATT

And where was it you slept during the expedition?

 

ED

I slept in a hammock system that I had made. They had large mosquito nets that were big enough to administrate yourself comfortably in and huge hexagonal tarpaulins (fly sheets) over the top to stop tropical storms drenching you. The best thing at the end of each day was climbing into our little mobile homes and knowing that we were safe and secure for the night.

 

MATT

So what advice would you give to anyone who wanted to visit or trek in the Amazon themselves?

 

ED

Go by boat!! It's much more pleasant! The locals there wouldn't dream of walking everywhere for a good reason - the dangers around are in the jungle and it's often even quite a fight to just move forward through the razor grass, vines and bamboo shoots that get in your way. So my advice would be definitely to go by boat.

 

MATT

How did you motivate yourself before the expedition and also during it, because there must have been some tough times along the way?

 

ED

I just thought it would be too embarrassing to come home and walk into the pub and have my mates say to me "we don't think anything less of you for quitting".  That is rubbish - of course they would! So there was no way I was ever going to put myself in that scenario.

 

MATT

How did you get into this field and do you have any idols that you looked up to when you were younger?

 

ED

Ran Fiennes is still a hero of mine. I think anyone who is prepared to push the boundaries of what we think humans are capable of is worthy of respect. He ran 7 marathons in 7 continents in 7 days - and that was straight after a triple heart bypass. The man is a legend in my eyes.

 

MATT

How about the other parts of your life? Can you tell us what you like to do in your spare time?

 

ED

My wife and I live in a lovely village in Leicestershire. I really enjoy repairing stuff and making our garden look nice. One of my mates now also owns the local pub so I enjoy drinking there in the sunny summer evenings. 

 
 

MATT

Do you have to follow a special diet at all?

 

ED

On and off really. I love eating healthily when possible, but I'm just as corruptible as the next man. I pretty much follow a Paleo diet, but tempt me with a nice slab of cake and I'm basically putty in your hands. If I work out enough though I can get away with eating some rubbish every now and again! 

 

MATT

What physical and mental attributes do you think a person needs to follow in your footsteps?

 

ED

Stupidity, insecurity, low self-esteem... Haha. I'm not even joking by the way! I think people with a balanced sense of self, tend not to push themselves to such extremes. They don't need to because they are content. Couple that with stubbornness, pig-headedness and humour and you have a winning combo.

 

MATT

What other moments of your career do you rank highly?

 

ED

I was proud to be commissioned as an officer in the British Army. I was also extremely happy to get my own series on The Discovery Channel. It's all a huge privilege - I'm very aware of how lucky I am.

 

MATT

So what is your next challenge Ed?

 

ED

There is a big new series about to be commissioned but, obviously, I'm not allowed to talk about it at the moment sorry.


Keep track of Ed's latest adventures on Twitter @Ed_Stafford and online at www.edstafford.org


SPORTS EDITOR | SAMSON