The landscape I will cross contains one in ten known species of animals on Earth, 1.4 billion acres of dense forests, and half of the planet’s remaining tropical forests – 2.6 million square miles in the Amazon basin, about 40 percent of South America. I am attempting to cross South America, east to west, on foot from the Atlantic coast in Brazil to the Pacific coast in Peru, following the path of the Amazon river from sea to source to sea. I will be unsupported and carrying all required kit in a backpack. The challenges along the way will fall into numerous categories.
A Dramatic Environment
The latest technology, e.g., GPS navigation, Google Earth, and satellite communications, makes any journey a bit easier to navigate, but it doesn’t make the physical day to day challenge of traversing such harsh terrain any easier.
The Challenge is to follow the Amazon river as close to the main channel as possible. However, the Amazon waters naturally rise and fall every year by as much as 45-50 feet in places, known as the Várzea. Depending on the weather, there will be big detours due to flooded forest areas.
There will also be many river crossings. I plan to swim across all of the main tributaries, lakes, rivers and bodies of water i encounter. If this is completely impossible, and I have to use a pack raft, the plan is to then return to the same point of longitude (where the main river flows West-East) or latitude (where the river or tributaries flow South-North or North-South) to have truly traversed the whole distance on foot. In Peru, there will be dramatic rapids along the way. I’ll be taking on dangerously steep valleys in the jungle and immense canyons in the Andes, including Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world.
The frequently occurring tropical thunderstorms could pose problems. The harshness of the terrain itself includes the potential of flash floods. Deadfall, or naturally occurring falling trees and branches, usually during torrential rain storms and flooded forests, is also a risk.
Being close to the Equator, the heat and humidity can cause heat stroke and dehydration.
Razor grass and other plants with needle like thorns will be a part of many of my days.
Local Help and Resources
From time to time, I will have to hire local guides in order to traverse territories, jungle, or the river. I will purchase food and supplies from communities and towns as I pass through.
Tropical Diseases, Dangerous Animals
I will also face the threat of contracting a tropical disease or coming across a deadly insect, fish, reptile, or large cat. The Amazon Jungle is teeming with dangers on this front and a single mosquito bite could carry many types of diseases. I will protect myself as well as I can, but the risks remain.
Some of the more commonly known tropical diseases include:
- Dengue Fever
- Chagas’ disease
- Yellow Fever
- Various parasites, including the infamous Bot Fly
I will be passing through the ever decreasing habitat of a multitude of amazing but dangerous animals, reptiles, insects, and fish, including:
- Pit viper snake
- Bushmaster snake
- Fer-De-Lance. Snake
- Poison dart frog
- Electric eels
- Bullet Ants
- Candiru fish
- Killer Bees
- Wandering Spider
And Finally, Humans
The people of the Amazon basin are diverse, sometimes protective, and sometimes isolated. I risk upsetting local indigenous communities, who can have an understandable streak of defensive self protection. There are also drugs traffickers and cocaine processing areas to avoid. I risk the potential of armed robbery, assault, and being in the middle of political unrest.
I am also going to come up against myself along the way. I’ll have to deal with accidents and infections should they occur, isolation, physical and mental exhaustion. I could face visa or permit issues and potentially deportation. Should I run out of money along the way, I face personal bankruptcy and failure to complete the journey.
The entire trip could take over 36 months, if all goes to plan. Spending three or more years in the jungle, anything can happen.