It's two years to the day that Ed Stafford set out to be the first man ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. And today – 2 April 2010 – he plans to tear open a packet of chocolate cake mix and bake a cake over his campfire to celebrate.
On 2 April 2008, former British Army captain Ed set off on foot to walk the Amazon, from source to sea. He chose five charities to support, including The ME Association's tissue and brain bank appeal.
Ed, who is now 34 and hails from Leicestershire, began his dangerous expedition with his friend Luke Collyer. He'd dreamed up an expedition that would test the hardiest explorer.
Three months into the expedition, Luke and Ed fell out and Luke came home to Britain. The press made out that it was an argument over who should have control over the iPod but it was a bit deeper than that.
Ed continued with his bid to become the first man to walk the 4000 mile river. With the help of a series of local guides Ed survived being chased down river by a flotilla of Ashaninka Indians toting guns and bow and arrows, walked through cocaine fields, stumbled through guerrilla territory and faced deadly snakes and wasp attacks every day on his walk.
His guides stayed with him for shorter and shorter lengths of time as the terrain became morew dangerous and the threats more real.
Four months in to his expedition Ed was lucky enough to come across a fearless Peruvian forestry worker called Cho who agreed to walk with Ed for a few weeks. The duo went on to form a strong friendship after being wrongly arrested on suspicion of murder, having concrete stuffed in their mouths by hostile tribes and surviving near-starvation in the Jungle.
Ed said: “Cho was a God-send because I had almost given up on finding a guide and was preparing to walk alone. Very scary. I had real problems finding someone brave enough to walk with me.
“People are terrified to enter the area because of the drugs trafficking and the fiercely defensive native Indians. Cho had experience of working amongst the indigenous people: his employer (a timber company) used to send him as a scout to look for areas of forest with lots of hardwoods. He’s pretty fearless.”
Cho said: “When my brother told me there was a gringo who wanted to become famous by walking through the River Ene I knew that I could help him. I didn't know Ed's motives at the time but I knew the areas he was having problems with well and wanted to help.
“Over time it became clear that Ed had committed to do something huge. I enjoyed walking with Ed and saw that to continue was to enter a big adventure of my own too. I only committed to another month to start with – but little by little I committed to more and more before in the end I wanted to complete the walk as much as Ed.”
Ed and Cho come from very different worlds; Cho grew up in the hills of Peru, he hid in the forests as a child, hiding from the terrorists and living off the jungle. Ed went to Uppingham School in Rutland and on to training at Sandhurst before specialising in leading jungle expeditions _ such as setting up the BBC's base camp for the conservation series “Lost Land of the Jaguar”.
Despite their different backgrounds, they get on very well.
Cho said: ‘We understand each other and tease and mock each other constantly. I love to laugh and Ed enjoys the banter too.’ However, Cho’s initial choice of walking songs did put Ed off at first: Ed commented: ‘Cho is very religious and tried to get me singing Christian songs in Spanish on day one. Not quite my cup of tea – I’m more a Robbie Williams man myself.”
They expects to finish their epic walk in August this year. By the end of the expedition Ed estimates that he will have covered 6000 miles due to flooding. The rising waters have pushed Ed and Cho further inland at points.
Ed and Cho faced starvation in September last year and lived on piranha as they walked through the remote Amazonas state. Their friendship helped both men get through the ordeal.
Summing up the relationship, Ed said: “Cho’s a very honest and loyal employee who has become a good friend. We have been through a lot together now and there is a mutual respect definitely.
“I can't escape Cho! I don't mean that in a bad way but the reason our relationship is different and strong is because I have seen him for over 12 hours of virtually every day for the last 20 months. That's a lot of Cho time. But for some reason he doesn't annoy me and nor do I him (I don't think!). That's pretty rare.”
TO MAKE A SECURE ONLINE DONATION TO ED'S FUNDRAISING PAGE FOR THE ME/CFS TISSUE AND BRAINK BANK APPEAL, PLEASE CLICK HERE.