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Walking the Amazon

by Ed Stafford

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16714140,650 (3.48)8
On 9th August 2010, Ed Stafford became the first person ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon river. This text takes readers on his daring journey along the world's greatest river and through the most bio-diverse habitat on earth.
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Fieldnotes:
The Amazon River Basin (all the way from Nevada Mismi, Peru to the river delta in Brazil, 2008-2010

1 Self-Absorbed, Overconfident and Underprepared "Adventurer"
Many Idiotic Ground Rules
1 Pointless Expedition ("Getting into the Record Books" doesn't count as a point)
860 Days
Over 4,000 Miles
Over 200,000 Mosquito/Ant Bites (His Reckoning)

Too Much Motivational Speaking Nonsense Focused on "Controlling One's Mental State"
Not Enough Description of Flora, Fauna, History, Culture, Geography or Issues facing the Amazon
Complete Lack of Self-Awareness Masquerading as Self-Reflection

The Lengthy Rant:
Look, I should have known to get rid of this early on. Stafford's overbearing machismo "laddishness" was on display early on when he talked about how the entire expedition was essentially born of a drunken brainstorming lark and then a game of chicken about backing down while ball-scratching in line for the shower (the ball-scratching detail the first of several unnecessary descriptions of the state of Stafford's scrotum).

On page 79, he's run off his expedition partner through adherence to undiscussed, un agreed-upon and nonsensical "ground rules", bubbling resentment and a desperate need to blame every suffered discomfort on the other man (and other asshole behavior). But I persevered because I thought we would start getting descriptions of the Amazon.

Reader, we didn't. Ed talked about thorns in his feet, about his crappy footwear, about his poor mental state, about how much Inca Kola they drank. He does not talk about any of the things that make the expedition interesting - descriptions of scenery, people, wildlife, history. He talks about Ed. And only Ed. Anything else only exactly how it relates to Ed and his feelings.

Most frustratingly, the expedition just seems a mess - he didn't realize the first leg was through a desert, so they don't have sunscreen or adequate gear. They never seem to carry adequate water or food supplies - so his "no hunting" policy is abandoned with simultaneously smug and defensive justification about "the food chain". He lets medical insurance lapse. He doesn't bother with visas because he paid a bad fixer and he decides being illegal for 6 months is a better choice than sorting it. He's too tired to make observations about the jungle and hasn't learned the languages enough to speak to people (nor does he have the energy to make an effort). The whole things sounds a misery and as such, it's miserable to be slogging through the book.

The rest of the book is a mess of Ed trying to convince the readers (or himself) about how he "controlled" his mental state through positive self-talk and coaching. A springboard for the motivational speaker career he touts in the author's note. No, thank you. ( )
  Caramellunacy | Feb 21, 2022 |
Really good book. Very tough journey walking and wading across the whole of South America in the Amazon jungle ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
In which an Englishman, accompanied by his Afro-Peruvian Sancho Panza, Cho, undertakes to walk the length of the Amazon, which, if accomplished, would be a first. Their sufferings are many, and often disturbing, despite the author's laconic, understated recounting of them (i.e., he mentions in passing that they frequently stepped on vipers, and devotes two paragraphs to his contracting a disease which would have stopped almost anybody in their tracks. This is not a sunny book, it is not a nature book (nature appears mostly as something to get eaten), and the author admits that he was so focused on survival most of the time that the concept of scenery ceased to exist. One also gets almost no sense of the presence of the Amazon; that's because they rarely walked alongside it, though of tributaries a tad more is detailed. The people he met were almost universally hostile in Peru --much of the book's drama happens there-- and almost always helpful and friendly in Brazil (despite Cho being Peruvian and a native Spanish speaker and neither of them having much Portuguese). And so, as with most good travel books, this essentially becomes a book about the people he encounters, albeit with a pallet of difficulties natural, financial, medical, psychological, and interpersonal. This was truly an astounding accomplishment. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Nov 14, 2017 |
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 |
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added by doomjesse | editKirkus (Jul 1, 2012)
 
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After receiving a very direct warning over the HF radio that we would be killed if we decided to continue our journey, we reach the downriver end of the shingle island in the middle of the Amazon.
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On 9th August 2010, Ed Stafford became the first person ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon river. This text takes readers on his daring journey along the world's greatest river and through the most bio-diverse habitat on earth.

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