British adventurer homes in on walking the Amazon

9th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British man was on Monday due to finish an epic bid to become the first person ever to walk the length of the Amazon -- if the exhausted explorer can still stand.

Ed Stafford, 34, started his roughly 4,000-mile (6,500-kilometre) journey at the furthest source of the world's longest river on April 2, 2008.

Surviving on a diet of piranha fish, rice and beans, the former soldier has spent the last two years walking from the Peruvian Andes to the Brazilian coast.

Stafford, from Leicestershire in central England, was expected to reach the mouth of the river on Monday but collapsed with exhaustion on Sunday.

During his gruelling expedition he has dodged pit vipers, electric eels, anaconda and scorpions. He has been imprisoned, chased by natives wielding bows and arrows and wrongly accused of murder -- twice.

Since he started his journey at the summit of Nevado Mismi in southern Peru on April 2, 2008, he has also suffered an estimated 50,000 mosquito bites and hundreds of wasp stings.

A spokeswoman for the adventurer said when he makes it to the Atlantic Ocean, he would be the first person to have walked the entire length of the Amazon.

Writing on his personal blog, Stafford said: "The endurance, both mental and physical, has been the thing that's been the most wearing.

"I've been quite humbled by how much I've had to rely on other people and I've benefited greatly from the generosity of the people I've met along the way.

"All the messages of support have kept me going -- that and the desire to bring life in the Amazon to the wider world."

But in a blog update Sunday, 85 kilometres (53 miles) short of the beach, he said he had "passed out in a state of utter exhaustion".

"I started to fall asleep again whilst walking -- the sort of sensation you sometimes scare yourself with when driving utterly shattered," he wrote.

"Whilst lying down at the side of the road I started to itch furiously. I began scratching franticly but the itching became maddening. I came out in a total body rash and was unable to walk or lie still.

"I feel slightly humbled that my system just decided to shut down so close to the finish.

"The last day is going to be very long indeed."

Five months into his trip, Stafford was joined by Peruvian forestry worker Gadiel Cho Sanchez Rivera.

"I started walking with Ed at first because I felt a responsibility to try and help this crazy man through a very dangerous area with drugs traffickers and hostile tribes," he said.

"But as the days went on I really enjoyed the simple life and Ed and I became good friends. It was not long before I knew that I wanted to complete the whole trip and walk with Ed right to the finish."

© 2010 AFP

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