On the 21st February 2008 at pretty much the stroke of midnight we realised our goal of navigating the entire length of the longest & biggest river on the planet, under our own power – Rio Amazonas. The final 2km was in pouring rain, howling wind & knee deep stinking mud as the river gods threw one last angry fireball at us. We dragged our Ark raft Skop Gat to a light beacon on a muddy outcropping called Ponte Taipu, marking the point where the mighty River finally meets the Atlantic Ocean. Ponte Taipu: S 00 39.708´ W 48 02.633´
As we stood at the concrete base of the light beacon, we were wet, covered in mud, so very tired & being attacked by hundreds of ferocious mosquitos. There was no welcoming party, no TV cameras, no newspaper journalists, no pats on the back (save the ones we gave each other) , no hype, no one. But it did not matter, nothing mattered at that moment – it was just us & mother nature. After 4 1/2 years of planning, 5 months on the river & 6800km of hard core trekking, paddling and rowing… we had won! We knew we had done it – the 2 of us. At that special midnight moment we became only the 4th successful team to travel the entire length of the Amazon River under our own power. We now join an elite few & feel honoured to be able to place our names in the history books beside the giants who came before us – Chmieliński, Horn & Angus.
We are currently back in Belem. Whilst we have savoured the opportunity to sleep in a real bed & have a hot shower (for the first time in a long, long time) – we are still missioning with post expedition work. Organising & packaging equipment for shipping, re-scheduling flights, working on sponsor commitments, trying to keep the website, family & friends up to date & a few other challenges that have blown up in our faces means the whirlwind that has been Expedition Amazonas continues even after we have claimed the prize. I think we are both looking forward to being able to take a step back very soon so we can let the achievement sink in & enjoy the moment – to be able to integrate & appreciate our little adventure.
Physically, our bodies still bear the scars of our epic. Shoulders, knees, elbows, & the connective tissue in fingers are the main bearers of pain at the moment but no doubt, time & rest will ease these little afflictions. Mentally its actually been a little challenging to adjust to the reality that we have finished – that we have completed the mission. Often times when lying in bed, you will find yourself unconsciously preparing to start your shift on the oars but then it suddenly hits you – oh yeh, no more paddling…its done!
Since having completed our journey, I have been asked a number of times “how do you feel?” Well I certainly feel pretty happy that we succeeded in our mission but without trying to sound like a pratt, it was never any surprise to me to be standing at that light beacon at Ponte Taipu. I had made my mind up long ago that’s what we were going to do & that’s exactly what we did – whatever it took! But to be honest, I think I need a bit of time to allow the ‘mission mode’ to wind down & then bask in the beauty of what we have just achieved.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters, family & friends for the inspirational words & posts along the way. I know I have said it before but you may never realise how uplifting it was to read your kind words when things were tough. Thank you all for sharing & being part of our adventure.
I would also like to acknowledge & thank the chap who has been beside me for the last 6 months & part of Expedition Amazonas from pretty much the moment I saw his eyes light up about 3 years ago when I asked if he was in. My mate & adventurer Mark Buffalo Kalch. After Big Phil had to leave us due to illness in Iquitos, something quite remarkable happened. I’m not sure if even he was aware of it at the time but slowly Marko began to change. It has been quite an amazing transformation & a wonderful spectacle to watch unravel before my very eyes. Marko stepped up, he raised the bar – whilst its still Buf, the man who stands before me today is more assertive, believes in himself & what he is capable of, but perhaps more importantly he has that dogged determination & won’t back down. Some of the things I have seen him do & say of late were not there 6 months ago. Beware, you will discover very soon a new man, a very powerful man! Thanks Mate for being by my side every step of the way & remember to keep pushing pushing for grander, more challenging life adventures!
It would be remiss of me at this time not to recognize & thank our team mate Big Phil Swart for his contribution to our success. Thanks big fella for joining us to Iquitos & being part of that life changing epic through the Apurimac. In the final 1km to Ponte Taipu & standing there in the pouring rain under that light beacon, our hearts & thoughts went out to you. Thanks for the adventure Indy!
One of the elements that has made the Expedition Amazonas experience so special has been the people we have met along the way. The list just goes on & on – Our logistics gurus, Petronio (Destination Peru), Mario (Andean Origins), Vera Cardosa (who is an amazing tour guide here in Belem who is helping us at the moment). Our medical adviser, Dr Caeser Sanchez. Alex from Hostal Manaus. Nice Yalan our legend river guide mate & his crew who offered us so much hospitality & support through the Apurimac. All these special people have helped us along the way & all we now consider friends. Then there is all the wonderful memories the local villagers have given us – truly beautiful people – so genuine, so giving! Everyone from Rocy the fisherman who fed us & gave us shelter after almost drowning at Powac & losing everything, to the children with their radiant smiles & playful antics. Thank you friends.
Then there is, of course, all of our awesome sponsors. Where would we be without all of their top notch equipment & service? Their continued service & support contributed greatly in creating the professional outfit that is Expedition Amazonas & its ultimate success. So to Electrotech Australia, Ark Inflatables, First Ascent, Teva, Fluid, Suunto, Kokatat, RAM, WRSI, Garmin, Storm Case, VIO, Zeal Optics, Benchmade, Goya Gear, & KINeSYS thank you, thank you, thank you.
A big thank you to Thomas Cavanagh & Amazon Watch. Again their support has been awesome. We hope in some small way we can now help their cause with our story & our footage. The Amazon is an amazing place & one of the planets richest, most diverse natural phenomenoms. We saw first hand the deforestation & devastation that plagues almost the entire region. We don’t have all the answers but the first step is definitely awareness. We must all be prepared to get off our bottoms & take some action, even if it is small. “From little things, big things grow” – each little individual action step moves us collectively towards a positive solution. Visit Amazon Watch now at www.amazonwatch.org & learn more about the huge challenges that face not only Peru & Brasil but the whole planet.
One last acknowledgement & thank-you. To 2 special people – Alexa Russell & Mike Saunders. It was over 5 years ago now that each of you gave me a book on paddling the Amazon. Two different books given to me by 2 different people(who didnt even know each other) in 2 different countries within 2 months of each other – co-incidence? I dont think so. It was these books that sparked the raging fire that is now Expedition Amazonas. Thank-you to the both of you for starting the fire within!
Whilst the river journey & adventure has reached an end, our life adventures certainly have not. We have only scratched the surface … so keep tuning into the website & communicating with us over the next few months as we begin working on documentaries, books & the next big adventure! If we can but inspire one or two of you out there to put it all on the line & pursue your wildest dreams & believe that you can actually do it – YES YOU! – then our little jaunt down the Amazon River has all been worth it!
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