Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Walking The Amazon

One of the biggest and boldest expeditions in recent years was Ed Stafford's extraordinary journey along the length of the Amazon River. Ed spent 860 days traveling on foot through some of the harshest and most demanding terrain on the planet. Along the way, he faced blistering heat, hostile natives, dangerous insects and animals, diseases and so much more.

After more than two years of constant struggle, Ed eventually completed his journey, becoming the first person to survive such an expedition. Upon his return home, he went to work chronicling his very personal story, which was eventually released in the aptly named Walking the Amazon.

Ed's journey began on April 2nd 2008, when he and Luke Collyer set off on their incredible journey together. Walking the length of the Amazon had been a shared dream at that point, but a falling out between the two men would send Collyer home just three months into the expedition. Later, Ed would be joined by Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera, who would become his constant companion for much of the trek. The two men would eventually reach the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil on August 9, 2010, officially completing the 4000+ mile expedition.



Stafford manages to condense that entire journey down to a 320 page book that reads like it is half that length. I found it to be a compelling narrative that was difficult to put down, even when I knew I should be shutting out the light for the evening. Ed's writing style is fast-paced, easy to read and very entertaining. He spends about two-thirds of the book describing the challenges he faced in the first year of his trek, but strangely enough the second half of the journey was glossed over much more quickly. If I have a criticism of Walking the Amazon it is that it could have used an extra 100 pages or so to help fill out the details on the final push to the end. Stafford does provide information about that section of journey, but his account seems rushed.

While the Amazon is one of the most remote places on the planet, it is still inhabited by pockets of humans sprinkled across the jungle. Ed met many of them along the way. Some of them helped him, some of them attempted to hinder his progress, and many of them were interesting characters. I enjoyed reading Stafford's account of his encounters with the indigenous people of the Amazon, finding they added spice to his already amazing story.

As a gear head, I also enjoyed his final section on the kit that he used while walking the Amazon. Considering how big this expedition was, some of the items that he took with him were quite surprising. This section of the book will provide would-be adventurers with some good insights on what to take on their next excursion, while the rest of the book will provide plenty of valuable information as well.

With this book, Stafford has managed to deliver an adventure story for the 21st century. What he managed to accomplish is nothing short of spectacular and reading his story only heightened my admiration for the man. You may think you know the tale of Ed's walk across the jungle, but until you've read his book, you just don't have the entire story. The trade paperback is available on Amazon for just $10.88, which is a very small price to pay for so big of an adventure.

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