After 859 days, 4,000 miles and 50,000 bites, Briton is first to walk the Amazon
After 859 days, 4,000 miles and "50,000 mosquito bites", former army captain Ed Stafford, 34, reached the mouth of the river at Maruda on Brazil's northern coast yesterday.
Mr Stafford said: "It's unbelievable to be here. It proves you can do anything – even if people say you cannot. I've proved that if you want something enough, you can do anything."
The adventurer encountered 18ft-long caiman crocodiles, venomous snakes, electric eels and piranhas. He was falsely accused of murder and chased by tribesmen armed with machetes, shotguns and bows and arrows.
The last leg of the expedition proved one of the most challenging, with Mr Stafford collapsing by the roadside a few hours before reaching his destination.
But he finally made it, accompanied by Peruvian forestry worker Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera, 31, who joined him five months into his journey.
Mr Stafford, from Mowsley, Leicestershire, began his trek at the summit of Mount Mismi in Peru on 2 April 2008. His original travelling companion, fellow Briton Luke Collyer, left three months in after the pair fell out.
Mr Stafford said he hoped his feat – which cost 62,800 and was paid for by sponsoring companies and donations – would raise awareness of the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest.
At its heart, however, Mr Stafford said the expedition was simply a grand exercise in endurance. "The crux of it is that if this wasn't a selfish boy's-own adventure I don't think it would have worked. I simply did it because no-one had done it before."
In September 2008, the leaders of one Indian community offered to radio ahead to the next village for permission for the adventurers to walk through their territory. "The response came back crystal clear," Mr Stafford wrote on his blog. "If a gringo walks into their community they will kill him."
He decided to plan a route around the village, but he was captured by Indians from another village and taken to their leaders where they had their machetes confiscated. They were allowed to walk on the land, but only if they hired guides from the tribe.
To relax at night, he downloaded podcasts via internet satellite phone by comedian Ricky Gervais and episodes of his hit TV show The Office.
Mr Stafford said his journey has deepened his understanding of the Amazon's role in protecting the world against climate change and the forces that are leading to its destruction.
"It's the people in power who are benefiting from the extraction of the natural resources here," he said.
He plans another expedition in September 2011 but would not give details for fear someone might beat him to it.