A team hailing from Australia, South Africa and Britain is currently attempting to voyage the Amazon River from source to sea. This seven-thousand km journey spans most of the South American continent and will take the team through geography ranging from the high alto-plano in Peru’s Andes to the lush Amazon basin. The greatest dangers on this trip are the extreme whitewater of Amazon’s upper tributaries and rebel activity in the cloud forests adjacent to the mountains.
The first team to fully navigate the Amazon River from source to sea was led by Polish/American, Piotr Chmielinski in 1985/86. This journey was recounted in Joe Kane’s international bestseller Running the Amazon which details the team’s death-defying adventure of navigating the world’s greatest roller-coaster using kayaks and a whitewater raft.
Following the Chmielinski expedition in 1997, South African Mike Horn, was next to run the Amazon’s length in a solo descent using a hyrdro speed. Our own team (Ben Kozel, Scott, Borthwick and Colin Angus) completed a five-month descent of the Amazon in 1999/2000, recounted in Amazon Extreme and Three Men in a Raft.
Currently Nathan Welch, Mark Kalch and Philip Stewart of Expedition Amazonas are faring well. They have located the source of the Amazon at 18,000 feet on the flanks of Mount Mismi and have successfully navigated the class V+ whitewater down to the jungle. Now in their third month of the expedition, they have made it as far as Atalaya, Peru and have 5,500 km remaining to the Atlantic Ocean. So far the team has been shot at, lost important gear after wrapping their raft around a rock, and capsized repeatedly.
Now the trio has made it past the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path guerillas) stronghold to the jungle town of Atalaya, and look forward to flat-water paddling from Atalaya to the Atlantic Ocean. They have installed a rowing frame on their raft to make the upcoming flat-water paddling more efficient. Here’s the latest web update from Expedition Amazonas:
Here’s the latest web update from Expedition Amazonas:
November 19, 2007
We arrived in Atalaya early yesterday morning with a little bit of a surprise – a good surprise! We had anticipated the bowels of the Red Zone (from San Francisco to Atalaya) would take us somewhere in the vicinity of 10 days. We ended up doing it in a smidgen over 5 days.
Our logistics guru & good friend Petronio (Destination Peru) met us in San Francisco on Saturday (10th?) with our last support drop off for the expedition. I was not in a good way – again this mysterious swelling of the feet & ankles had hit me – this time spreading to my knees, aches in all my joints & to top it off I spent the night before & that morning emptying my insides from both ends! Unfortunately as the oar frame set up was my design & project – I was the only one who knew how to put together this intricate little baby. So it turned out to be a long long day for us all. We ended up camping up in the boat that night at around 12.00 – totally knackered!
The next morning we put the finishing touches on the oar frame, packed the gear & paddled off from San Francisco to the cheers & whistles of a huge audience of locals – somewhat bemused by the antics of these totally ´loco´ gringos!
Our first couple of days on the oars was a challenging – it took us a while to adapt to this new paddling genre, plus we needed to refine a few things with the overall set up. The rains have now started in full & there were times when we were trying to adjust the canopy in these hectic conditions at all hours of the day & night. We ended up donating quite a few screws, sockets & even a tarp to the river in our missions to adjust the canopy to suit the conditions. All in all, it’s been very frustrating & challenging for us at times adapting to the changes & this new environment. Seemingly, it’s little things that become big things in the middle of a storm on a swollen river late at night! There have been quite a few expletives being put out there over the last few days! But, Atalaya now provides us with the opportunity to refine things & that’s exactly what we are missioning with right now – sorting out leaks, extending the canopy, improving our onboard kitchen & just general practical living on the raft with 3 guys!
Perhaps one of the real positives over the last 5 days has been our quick improvement on the oars. Day one saw us travel about 30km & then we progressively reached close to 70km per day – of course the flooding river & rising water has helped our cause!
The other bonus for us personally has been a relatively trouble free passage through a lot of the Red Zone. Whilst you were always aware of a certain feel & sinister energy in the air, we had a pretty trouble free run. We were fired at on a couple of occasions, but this time around they were warning shots from local military & police – wanting us to pull over so they could investigate – & believe me, paddling that great big raft over to the side of the river from a pumping flow is a mission in itself! Other than that, we had a pretty sweet run – which we are super grateful for. Just in the newspaper this morning was a main news story telling the tale of how narco terrorists ambushed & killed 5 police officers in an area very close to where we had just paddled through. Again, all your prayers has seen the river gods look favourably upon us – thank-you!
One of the more hectic things we encountered over the last few days has been enormous whirlpools – some of them about 5m in diameter. With our Big Rig at the moment it’s scary to see the water just toss it around & on one occasion wanting to slip it. Thankfully we have transferred 2 of our thwarts to the wings of the oar frame & they act as outriggers & extra stability. The river has gone through 2 name changes & is significantly wider than when we last posted. As the Mantaro River fed into the Apurimac, the river became Ene River. Then later the Perene River met the Ene to become the Tambo, which we are officially on right now.
As we speak we are moored at the navy base here in Atalaya – the Navy boys have befriended us & helped us out, sourcing the local people & equipment we need on our little refinement mission. They also took us out on the town to taste some of the local brews & scope out the nightlife. Atalaya has certainly been a friendly, cool little place. Our appreciation of the generosity & kindness of the Peruvian people continues to grow – we have experienced some truly wonderful, genuine people to date.
All things coming together with the raft & frame we should be outa here in the next day or so – next stop Pucallpa.the fastest growing jungle city in Peru.