The Amazon Challenge
|"Antimalarial tablets, tetanus, hepatitis,
polio, yellow fever, cholera and so forth."
British policeman John Anthony looks unshaken as he rattles off the myriad vaccines needed for the Amazon Challenge. He adds that a "very specialist insurance company" will be available if evacuation is needed.
"It is a world first; no one has ever recorded this trip," says Anthony between sips of beer outside the British Embassy in Lima, where he has come to thank Peruvian authorities and publicize the effort.
"There's a rumor that one person may have reached Cuito, but I seriously doubt it given the boat he would have used at that time. He certainly wouldn't have been able to navigate the Manseriche pongos, fierce white-water rapids." Anthony's colleague and fellow adventurer David Haining looks disturbed when he describes what they are up against. "Apart from the electric eels, piranhas and stingrays, there is a fish we've been warned about. You have to wear two pair of pants because it does something disgusting. It is a small fish, almost microscopic, with two spikes that go downwards. It crawls up things and can't go backwards due to the spikes. Once it's there, it stays."
"This fish is so small," they emphasize in unison," that it can crawl up any orifice. Local people call it canero."
At this point, both men look a little green, but they quickly regroup with enthusiasm. Anthony, Core Team member leading the expedition, has been involved with other trips organized by the Police Expeditions Club, a group of British bobbies who trek for charity.
"In 1995 I led an expedition to Borneo that took us into the jungle. This will be substantially different, in that the Amazon is considered to be more hostile than the Borneo jungle. The advantage of the Amazon is that at least we won't be suffering from leeches."
The Borneo expedition resulted in the construction of a bridge for researchers and scientists so that they were no longer stranded. "Every time the rain fell heavily, the river rose significantly and you couldn't cross," recalls Anthony. The Expeditions Club also marked the first underwater nature trail in that fragile reef area. Then there was the mountain trek through Albania, summed up by Anthony as a cultural exchange. "We took some students with us and did basic research for the Worldwide Trust for Nature, a mild trip, he says, compared to the ice camping in Poland's Tetra Mountains - and certainly nothing compared to the Amazon.
The 32-year-old speaks as if these excursions are trips to the kitchen on a Saturday morn. His colleague David Haining looks like a 15-year-old kid, but is another experienced officer. They now take on the Amazon
Challenge, a 36-day trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Core Team will navigate through rough white-water rapids, while the Support Team, in Land Rovers, will keep them apprised of what lies ahead. The journey will raise money for the Sick Children's Trust via sponsorship of each kilometer, all 3,000 of them. The two men recently answered a few questions for RUMBOS.
Why Peru? Because the Amazon is a challenge?
How are you training for this?
Is it true that you have the support of the Peruvian Navy if something should
How big are the teams?
JA: What we see now could be different from what we see in September when we come to Peru. The river could change its course; certainly some routes might suffer a landslide, so it's important that the Support Team do a reconnoiter of the route before we get to it.
Seventy percent of the diseases and illnesses of this region are water borne, so we might be weakened or suffering, and the primary role of the Support Team is one of safety and contingency.
You will be carrying supplies on the boat?
How will you train for this trip in England?
Most importantly, the training will encourage people to learn to adapt to change. We
will spend training weekends as if we're living in the jungle, using the equipment we'll
take with us to Peru. We'll sleep in hammocks underneath mosquito netting, even though
there won't be mosquitoes.
Why do you need horses and mules?
JA: We'll get to the confluence of the Chachano River with the Chamaya River. From there we'll start the walk over the Andes until we reach a village near Cajamarca called Cumbil. There we'll pick up the River Chancay, on which we'll use canoes to navigate to the Pacific.
How will the Support Team tell the Core Team it is all right to proceed?
How long have you been planning the trip?
Where will you sleep every night?
What is the Sick Children's Trust?
The Police Expeditions Club?
Anthony breathes a sigh of relief when he says he has never been seriously ill during a trip. Haining was "on his deathbed with cholera" the week before this RUMBOS interview, yet looked no worse for wear. He is worried about that canero, though.
By Aime Senior Nestingen
Volume II/Issue 7, Page 64
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