There’s nothing quite like a Guinness World Record to propel a person to international fame, especially when said record is something as mental as traversing the entire length of the Amazon River on foot. But that’s precisely what English adventurer and former army captain Ed Stafford did back in 2010, eventually reaching the Atlantic a gruelling 860 days after his epic expedition began amid snowcapped Andean peaks.
Unsurprisingly, such a monumental achievement didn’t go unnoticed. After a feature-length documentary entitled Walking the Amazon was aired on the UK’s Channel 5, Stafford went on to star in Naked and Marooned, as well as various other reality TV survival series. These days, he’s become something of a household name in his native England, perhaps even on a par with his urine-drinking rival and fellow former military man, Bear Grylls.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
We caught up with Stafford to learn a little more about that death-defying two-year jaunt into the jungle.
CT: What inspired you to undertake such a trek?
ES: A colleague of mine called Bruce Parry had recently tried to walk across West Papua and had an incredible adventure that he filmed and made into a documentary called Cannibals and Crampons. I loved their attitude and ability to just quit their jobs and go exploring. So I did the same.”
After his first companion dropped out some two months into the trek, Stafford recruited Gadiel “Cho” Sánchez Rivera, a Peruvian forestry worker, to accompany him for the next five days. He ended up walking with Stafford all the way until the end.
CT: How did you convince Cho to join you to the end?
ES: It wasn’t hard. He’d had a dream the night before about decision-making and he knew he had to take the difficult, but rewarding, path. So he smiled, and agreed to walk with me.
CT: Is Cho still living in England? Are you still both good mates?
ES: Haha, no. Cho and I are still mates, yes. But he lives in Pucallpa, Peru. He has a baby with an indigenous Shipebo woman now.
CT: How on earth did you survive?
ES: We survived due to luck, some skill, some ingenuity, and Cho would say because we were walking with God. I would say we seemed to be in tune with what the universe wanted to happen.
CT: What were the greatest difficulties you encountered during the adventure?
ES: People. From drugs traffickers to drunken village chiefs, it was always people that posed the biggest threat. I was held up at arrow-point and gunpoint several times. I was even arrested for suspected murder.
Note that he neglects to mention the botfly that burrowed into his head. Those humans must have been quite troublesome indeed!
CT: What were the most memorable moments (aside from reaching the finish line)?
ES: Bizarrely, it was the feeling of competency in Cho’s and my little team. He would collect firewood and fish. I would light the fire and deploy the gill net. We had a system of walking through any type of forest that worked. We could make and break camp in minutes. We never had real trench foot because we had a good system in place. I remember that satisfaction of being jungle-competent above most things.
CT: What was the first thing you did upon reaching the Atlantic?
ES: Cry. Then laugh. It was overwhelmingly positive in a way that I wasn’t expecting. That night we flew to Rio and I thought we would party. But we stayed in our hotel and slept!
CT: Would you do it again?
ES: No. Don’t be daft.
Can’t really blame him, can we?
CT: What have you been up to since?
ES: This and that. I’m currently making my seventh survival series for Discovery Channel. I got married two years ago, and we now have a 10-month-old baby called Ranulph James Stafford.
CT: What are your plans for the future?
ES: More kids, more adventures, more fun. But also more relaxing and enjoying what we have achieved so far.
CT: What can our readers do to help fight deforestation?
ES: I don’t believe in fighting deforestation. Anything you resist persists. The war on drugs has created more drugs. Mother Teresa said she would never attend an anti-war rally. But invite her to a peace rally and she’d come.
I believe in working together to look for sustainable and practical ways of helping preserve the beautiful resource that is our rainforest. Education is the key; and ensuring that the next generation know about the value of these ecosystems is the only way they will survive.
Thanks, Ed, for taking time out your busy schedule to chat with us. Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to (supporting his adventurer wife become the first person to canoe down a river in Guyana, by the looks of it) or check out his incredible book to learn more about his epic Amazon expedition.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.