Fordyce Maxwell: 'The jungle walk makes the Tweed or the Fife coast seem like the A1'
FOR the past few days when the pressures of daily life permitted – leaks to repair, tomatoes to tend, Sherlock to watch – I've been struggling to get something straight in my mind.
This is not a new sensation. I've been a martyr to it most of my life, with no expectation of future improvement. That makes it no easier to understand why I remain impressed by the efforts of Scott and Amundsen at the South Pole a century ago, but unmoved by a man walking the 4,000 miles of the Amazon in 859 days.
His walk, often through jungle that I guess makes paths along the Tweed and the Fife coast seem like the A1, included braving an estimated 50,000 mosquito bites, threats from irate locals and an argument with his original companion about an MP3 music player. No hint was given whether the argument was about choice of music or who got the earphones.
Initially I thought my lack of appreciation might be, perish the thought, to do with age. Perhaps I thought less of his efforts in the same way as the best of today's footballers come a distant second in my mind to players such as Laurie Reilly, Dave Mackay and Duncan Edwards, or today's cricketers to Ken Barrington and Jim Laker.
Looked at objectively today's players are fitter, faster, possibly more skilful. Subjectively, they don't compare, in the same way that the several hundred climbers who have reached the summit of Everest since 1953 have not registered in the same way as Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
So perhaps it was about being first? The only time I took an interest in yachting was when Francis Chichester circled the globe more than 40 years ago. Since then I'd be pushed to name another sailor, although yachting derring-do has been rampant and teenagers now take time off school to circumnavigate.
Perhaps it's technology. Sir Ranulph Fiennes has risked life and what's left of his extremities a dozen times on hazardous walks and climbs, as have others, but rescue has usually been at hand thanks to cellphones, GPS, helicopters and aircraft.
Somehow it lessens the impact. The near-certainty of rescue has also led to endurance attempts by people who should have been warned off and who, pre-mobile-phones, wouldn't have thought of trying.
Yet in most ways the Amazon-walker – a former soldier named Ed Stafford, accompanied most of the way by Peruvian forestry worker Gadiel Cho Sanchez Rivera, who hasn't had his fair share of publicity – did not have much modern equipment.
If we discount, that is, using Twitter and a blog to keep the world up to date. As someone who counts 15 miles of moderate hill or coast as quite enough for a sane person, I should be more impressed than I am, but still can't work up any enthusiasm for Stafford or why he did it.
Back to the thinking room.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 10 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east