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Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a…

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

by Ed Stafford

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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
Tags:Travel, Exploration, Amazon

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Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford



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I find the extremely rancorous and critical reviews interesting. I take this book for what it is, a long slog by an individual with extraordinary dedication to his goal. No, Stafford isn't a good writer in any sense, but I don't think he pretends to be. What he has that I don't have, nor do I suspect those who criticize him so eloquently, is the desire or commitment to spend 860 days doing something that no one else has done. I think he sought great adventure, and possibly fame, and instead found boredom, depression, friendship, some personal insight, and satisfaction in finishing something far less glamorous than initially imagined. Perhaps if Nicholas Sparks had penned this internal journey critics would have preferred it...then read Sparks instead.
Would I like Stafford personally - probably not. Do I respect his tenacity and honesty - yes. Do I see him as a great anthropologist, ecologist, botanist...no, he's a testosterone driven, military trained egoist who decided he would do something and then did it...props to him for doing so. I did find it refreshing that he didn't paint every indigenous village that he passed through as Nirvana, nor every player as saint. At the end of the day he saw people, including himself, with all their faults and foibles. He did express his concern for the environment. He did make a commitment to not take guns, nor to hunt with them for food. In many small ways once you get past the hatred of his machismo and his uneducated prose stylings you have to say that he was a committed and relatively kind and thoughtful guy. He is what he is - a self-absorbed adventurer who took on a difficult self-defined challenge and completed it. I think that puts him in good company with many other accomplished adventurers. Finally, to those who criticize his relationship, "use," of Cho, remember that Cho willingly joined the adventure, and stayed long after many others had come and gone. It is impossible to read this book and come away convinced Cho was abused in any way by Stafford. Cho made his personal choices, and benefitted from the journey as well. To assert otherwise is simply pandering to an "anti-colonial" mindset that undermines Cho's ability to assert his free will.
( )
  1greenprof | May 9, 2017 |
Well... I really wanted to like this book, but in the end I found it disappointing. Ed Stafford could have used some help writing this book. The subject and his achievement are excellent but the book falls short. The book has very few descriptions of the local people, the terrain, or the wildlife. If you could take out most of Stafford's complaining about his trekking partners and add some humorous episodes this could be a good 200 page book. ( )
1 vote ecurb | Feb 6, 2016 |
I thought that Ed Stafford's achievement was amazing. The mental challenges of completely this task were incredible. This is an excellent book for those who involve travel writing. What I did not like about this book was the fact that some of the geographical and topographical descriptions were difficult to follow without visual aids. ( )
  magistrab | Apr 17, 2014 |
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. ( )
4 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 |
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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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