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Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a…
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Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time. (edition 2012)

by Ed Stafford

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6810174,730 (3.29)7
Member:baobab
Title:Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time.
Authors:Ed Stafford
Info:Plume (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Travel, Exploration, Amazon

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Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey by Ed Stafford

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Ed Stafford spent well over two full years traversing the entire length of the Amazon on foot. Why? As far as I can tell, the answer to that seems to be "Well, nobody'd ever done it before, and, hey, why not?"

This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. Stafford doesn't describe the jungle in vivid, you-are-there terms for the armchair traveler, and there isn't too much in the way of long, thoughtful musings about the ecological significance of the rainforest. Instead, he recounts the details of his journey step by step in a linear fashion, including where they slept, the people they encountered, what kind of time they made, what they did for food, and how much trouble they had financing it all. He also focuses a lot on the psychological aspects of spending that long traipsing through the wilderness, freely admitting that it was a struggle -- and often a losing one -- for him not to get depressed and short-tempered and behave like a jerk to his traveling companions. (Having experienced more than enough of this phenomenon myself just on a three-day hiking trip, I find myself sympathizing with everybody involved, there.)

Even excusing his self-confessed periods of jerkiness, it's a little hard for me to know quite what to make of Stafford. He struck me as entirely too over-confident and cavalier about the whole thing at the beginning, but you do have to admire his fortitude, if nothing else. And there is a certain kind of honesty about this narrative that I came to appreciate. He's not trying to turn this journey into something it's not; he's just telling us what it was like for him, day to day. Although no matter how much of a look he tries to give us into his head, I must confess that I never will understand the mindset of someone who would just randomly decide to spend years of his life doing something as miserably uncomfortable and essentially pointless as this.

Also alien to me is the Amazon itself, and I don't think I'd realized before just how vague and stereotyped my ideas about the place were. For some reason, I was profoundly surprised by the fact that, for a good portion of the trip, they were able to find small settlements to stay at most nights, and sometimes even large towns with hotels. In retrospect, it's silly that that should surprise me. It's a huge, navigable river. Of course people live along it. It's just that apparently the entry labelled "Amazon" in my mental encyclopedia contained little more than an image of trackless jungle populated by the thinly scattered remnants of hunter-gatherer tribes. So it was interesting to get some better perspective on that. And it was also interesting to get a sense of what this kind of expedition is like in the 21st century. There's something utterly bizarre to me, somehow, about the idea of someone hacking his way through the jungle with a machete all day, making camp in some isolated spot, and pulling out his laptop to check his e-mail and update his blog. It really brought home to me just how very, very connected the modern world is.

Anyway. I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about this book at first, but I found myself getting more and more into it by the end. I think it was the descriptions of moving with immense difficulty through a landscape of chest-high water and tangled thorns during the river's flood season that probably did it. There's just something weirdly compelling about experiencing that kind of awfulness vicariously. Although I am, of course, quite happy to leave experiencing it first-hand to the Ed Staffords of the world. ( )
3 vote bragan | Mar 5, 2014 |
Um... what? My expectations for Walking the Amazon were out of sync with how Stafford presents it. What I thought was going to be a transformative and deeply personal journey for the author instead focused on petty bickering with his short-lived partner and other trivial mentions of the hike. No thanks.

Ed Stafford may have had the mental and physical fortitude to complete his goal of walking the Amazon River, but that doesn't automatically translate into something meaningful to write about. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Feb 11, 2014 |
The story of Stafford's grueling journey on foot is begging to be told. By someone other than Stafford. He needed a ghost writer. Or a team of iron-stomached editors. Stafford just plain can't write worth a damn.

His journey is a fascinating one- but he rarely pulls his head out of his ass long enough to tell the reader anything about the wildlife, the people he meets, or even the scenery. We spend a lot of time inside his head, which is a dank and dolorous place. Stafford is clinically depressed for much of the trek, and when he's not, he's quarreling and quibbling with his staff. He reminds me curiously of Ayla from [b:The Clan of the Cave Bear|1295|The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, #1)|Jean M. Auel|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1324059993s/1295.jpg|1584694]- the star turns are done by Stafford. All the best ideas are his.

There's some what I saw as self-serving justification very early on, when he falls out with his initial partner- and that set the tone for me. I didn't like his authorial voice from page one.

The, um, the photos are interesting. There, I've said something nice. ( )
1 vote satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
The first thing - Ed Stafford is crazy. I want to travel around South America but no way would I do this. Everyone said he'd never make it and he is probably lucky to have survived - floods, infections, hostile people, dangerous wildlife. Not to mention his mental state as he spent such a huge portion of the trip depressed. A monumental adventure and a first in a world where there aren't many great adventure firsts left.

I would love to visit a lot of the places he went but I'll take a plane or a boat thanks. ( )
  Shirezu | Mar 31, 2013 |
Mr. Stafford gives an honest account of his trials while trying to reach his goal and set a record. He encounters a variety of guides, broken equipment, terrible weather, and suspicious indigenous tribes as he battles the monotony of the walk. His depression detracts some of the spirit of his adventures, but it remains an enjoyable read. ( )
  poetreegirl | Mar 21, 2013 |
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added by doomjesse | editKirkus (Jul 1, 2012)
 
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Describes the author's quest to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, offering details on the effects of deforestation and his encounters with both vicious animals and tribal members with machetes.

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