“I will follow the west-to-east direction – a tried-and-true favourite of mine”
The territories I will traverse comprise parts of three different zones:
equatorial forest (selvas),
savanna (campōs) и
This time I will not attempt to cross the South American continent from ocean to ocean – I gave this route my best shot in 2015. Nor will I follow the course of the Amazon River from its source to its mouth – a route which has gained the reputation of a “classic”. I prefer to stick to my own path and my own rules. I will follow the west-to-east direction – a tried-and-true favourite of mine – all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
I will set off from the north, the westernmost portion of the Brazilian highlands, right at the border with Venezuela, at the upper course of the Rio Negro. This is the highest point of the Amazon jungle, reaching up to 3,000 metres. After about 2,483 kilometres on foot, by canoe or bike I will reach the southernmost point of my route – the Bolivian border. From then on I will cut diagonally to the northeast, heading toward the northernmost point of my plan and final goal close to another border – that of French Guiana. I will cover more than 5,000 kilometres of rainforest, rivers and mountains without once leaving the boundaries of Амazonia Legal*. The mission will take somewhere between 4 and 6 months.
*Амazonia Legal: the territory of the Amazon in Brazil
5000 km – 6 months
After a long sojourn in the green expanse my eyes and senses will thirst for other shades. The Atlantic coast will serve as my finish line where the green ends and the immensity of the ocean begins.
The route will be divided into several stages
each of which will require different means of man-powered transport. Muscle power will be my only engine.
Through all the main tributaries, lakes, rivers and water courses I will travel by canoe and, wherever there are trails or openings in the jungle, I will use my bicycle. Where this is not possible I will hack my own way through virgin wet forest.
“Delicacies will be a rare indulgence.”
I will subsist on whatever I manage to catch on the go – fish, reptiles, small rodents as well as some plants, nuts and forest fruits. On occasion I may also buy food from the communities living along the river banks – plátanos* and manioc roots which will help reduce the inevitable carbohydrate deficit. Delicacies will be a rare indulgence.
Certain gadgets such as GPS navigation, satellite telephone, video camera and a solar panel will give me a slight technological advantage, but will not be of much help in terms of the physical challenge.
plátanos* – starchy green bananas that serve as a good substitute for potatoes
As has become my preferred mode of travelling, I will tackle the journey on my own, without an on-ground support team. All my gear will be crammed in a backpack which I will carry on my back when hiking, on board the canoe when paddling or on the bike’s rack, when pedalling along the muddy Amazonian trails.
This time round I will need to change modes of transport and equipment – switch my canoe and its fishing net for a bike and pump, or the canoe for a backpack holding all my belongings. These logistics will be the key responsibility of my support team in Brazil, led by my good friend and kindred spirit Rumen Koynov – photographer and Amazon dweller for almost 20 years. We will meet up at certain points along the route in order to swap equipment. With the help of a local operator Rumen will photograph and record my progress across each leg of the journey.
The second goal of the expedition…
“The Embrace of the Amazon”
The second goal of the expedition is to create a feature-length documentary charting not only my personal approach and my progress but also the Amazon and its people from a more unorthodox and personal point of view. It is the river itself, its significance for the planet and the heart of its people that drive us in this project. Instead of focusing on the many challenges that will cross my path we will try to show this awe-inspiring world in all its diverse, dazzling layers.
Our team believes in this project because we are spellbound by the rainforest, by its vitality, energy, deadliness and magnificence. We believe that those who do not respect Nature have no place in Nature!
What I mean to say is that it is Nature and the Amazon itself that are important, not my adventure as such. This film will bring its viewers to a timeless reunion between Human and Nature. I want to show you an authentic, breathing, living place. Follow us, join us and share the Return to the Amazon Campaign, because the more people learn about it, the easier it will be fulfil the mission without compromising any of its many aspects.
I myself can survive on any river with very little resources, but the daily maintenance of the team and equipment in field conditions is a big expense. The success of the film depends on your cooperation.
Main facts about the Amazon tracts that I will pass through:
Amazônia* The Amazon drainage basin constitutes the most complex, large-scale river system in the world. With a total area of 7,500,000 square kilometre, it takes up around 40% of the South American continent. The largest river in the world – the Amazon (6,800 km) snakes its way across the continent along with its thousands of tributaries. The mouth of this enormous liquid escalator is more than 300 kilometres wide and houses the largest river island in the world, comparable in size to Switzerland. Yet only 1,400 km upwards the river is just 10 kilometres wide. The Amazon’s discharge volume is 16 times bigger than that of the Nile. It is is the undisputed Queen of Rivers, home to more fish species than the Atlantic Ocean.
Várzea* Due to the copious amounts of rainfall and the low lying surrounding areas the river often floods the jungle, at times more than 100 kilometres inland, forming numerous lakes, swamps and tributaries. Along the main channel the seasonal rise in the water level reaches 12-15 metres causing the width of the river to fluctuate between 11 and 50 km. Treading through such harsh terrain is a full day’s work. Weaving through flooded rainforest is the hardest part of the expedition. Tropical storms, falling trees and branches are risks which I have already encountered. The closeness to the equator, the heat and humidity can cause heat stroke and dehydration. Razor-sharp grasses, needle and thorn-adorned plants abound. Finding one’s way around this lushly overgrown territory is a further challenge.
Mata* The Amazon rainforests make up half of all rainforests on the planet representing the largest biological resource on the planet. The wet tropical forests of the Amazon are home to more than 40,000 plant species, 5,000 fish species, 1,000 bird species, 2,5 milion insect species, 450 types of mammals and a myriad of other species. The impressive number of river inhabitants includes exotic animals such as the largest river dolphin, the largest fresh-water fish – the pirarucu (arapaima), the giant anaconda, the predatory piranha. A quarter of the medicinal plants used by traditional medicine were discovered in the jungle. Each scientific expedition into the Amazon leads to the discovery of new, unknown biological species. This makes the Amazon a perfect place for research missions.
I face the threat of tropical diseases such as malaria, the Dengue fever and yellow fever, numerous parasites and disease vectors. A trifling mosquito bite can cause several types of illnesses. Passing through the habitats of assorted fascinating but dangerous animals, fishes and reptiles is in itself a hazard – the jungle is the haunt of the black kaiman, of poisonous snakes and of the big cat of the selva – the jaguar.
The people who inhabit the river banks are just as diverse. Local communities can be divided into those of non-indigenous settlers and of the indigenous population – the Amazon Indians, with many of the tribes still living in complete isolation from the outside worlds, hence any entry into their territories is apt to provoke extreme aggression. In certain stretches of my route I can expect to be denied passage through their reserves, a ban that I will most definitely respect! My aim is to keep as much as possible out of their way so as not to disrupt their traditional rhythm of life. However well-meaning I may be, I must not forget that I am an outsider – a potential carrier of diseases and misguided culture which can be highly dangerous to them. A much bigger risk to the adventurer are the savages who have fallen prey to the corrupting influence of civilization. These groups go by different names: bandits, river pirates, drug traffickers – anyone with evil thoughts and a weapon in their hands. I risk being embroiled in an armed robbery or attack – something that actually happened to me three years ago, so it would be naïve to think that I will luck out this time around. Anything can happen in the jungle over a period of half a year.
In short, for a second time I will face my fears in pursuit of my dreams, this time much better prepared and far more mindful of what I am doing and why. I am going back to the Amazon because my love for the jungle has grown stronger. Its true untamed nature makes my heart beat with genuine passion. This is the strongest embrace in the world – the embrace between Nature and Human. I will prove that this embrace is not lethal. I embark on a journey of life, not death! Life in the Wild.
Follow the Return to the Amazon Campaign and learn more about this enchanted world which has remained unchanged from the time of the dinosaurs. Find out how you can support this unique adventure and the creation of The Embrace of the Amazon film so that the voice of the river may reach further.
Thanks to all those who believe in me.