Ed Stafford Becomes First Man to Walk Length of Amazon River

Briton completes record breaking 4,000-mile trek through treacherous jungle

August 09, 2010, 2:14 PM

Aug. 9, 2010— -- Contending with man-eating fish, giant snakes, disease, and Indians who threatened his life, a British man has become the first person to walk the entire length of the world's longest river, the Amazon.

After 859 days, Ed Stafford arrived at the river's mouth on the Atlantic Ocean Monday in Maruda, Brazil. Stafford said he intended the more than 4,000-mile trek to be a journey of self endurance, but also hoped the walk would raise awareness about the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rain forest.

"The crux of it is, if this wasn't a selfish, boy's-own adventure, I don't think it would have worked," the 34-year-old former British army captain told the Associated Press. "I am simply doing it because no one has done it before."

Stafford started the route with a friend on April 2, 2008. Within three months the friend had quit and Stafford continued on his own, eventually meeting, Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera, a 31-year-old Peruvian forestry worker with whom he completed the trek.

There have at least been half a dozen previous journeys along the length of Amazon, beginning high in the mountains of Peru, through Columbia and into the thick jungles of Peru. But those expeditions all used boats.

Along the way Stafford confronted flesh-eating piranha, the giant anaconda, disease, food shortages and a run-in with Indians who threatened his life, but ultimately only confiscated his machete.

The trek cost an estimated $100,000 raised by donations and corporate sponsors.

Using an Internet satellite phone, Stafford downloaded episodes of the sitcom "The Office" and blogged about his trip.

The Englishman says he is planning another adventure for 2011, but for now will cool his heels for a bit.

"This expedition has been our lives. For 2½ years we've done nothing but walk and walk and walk. To wake up the morning after and know that we've done it will be a big change," said Stafford. "I think we'll get used to it though."

When ABC News's Bill Weir caught up with him in April, more than two years into his journey, Stafford said he was spurred to walk because others told him it was impossible.

"It was in fact, a lot of people telling me that it was impossible to walk the entire length of the Amazon that spurred me on even more," Stafford said. "As soon as they said 'that's impossible,' it made me want to prove them wrong."

Stafford, who claims not be an ardent environmentalist, says his eyes were opened to the devastation caused by deforestation. It was with his personal adventure story, he said, that he hoped to teach other people about the destruction of Amazon rainforests.

"But there's no doubt it's still going on, and it's going on at a rate that still isn't sustainable. If this expedition it wasn't adventurous, if it wasn't slightly gung-ho and if there wasn't an element of danger people wouldn't be interested in coming to the blog and then finding out more about the Amazon, so I think so the event seems like the reckless side of it, it's actually crucial to draw people into the Amazon and in order to make the whole thing exciting."

The Associated press contributed to this report.

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