A Newcastle graduate has become the first British person to kayak the entire length of the Amazon River unsupported from its most distant source. Olie Hunter Smart travelled from the Peruvian Andes to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil.
Olie completed the 4,103 mile journey with Australian travel companion, Tarran Kent-Hume. The journey along the world's longest and largest river took four and a half months.
The pair started their expedition in the Peruvian Andes at the headwaters of the Rio Mantaro. From there, the first leg of the expedition saw them walk over 400 miles.
"Walking up and over the gruelling terrain of the Andes Mountains was much harder than I expected. We experienced everything from altitude sickness, extreme daytime heat and icy cold nights to vicious dogs," said Olie.
In spite of the arduous hike, the pair enjoyed the experience. "There were some beautiful landscapes of snow-capped mountains and valleys," said Olie. "It was incredible."
At Pichari, a riverside jungle village, the pair swapped hiking boots for paddles and embarked on the next leg of the tour. This involved kayaking the remaining 3,600 miles, sometimes for up to 10 hours per day.
Seven days into the second leg, Olie and Tarran's guide deserted them as the river's course entered dangerous territory where illicit trading is rife. At one stage, the Peruvian Marines escorted the duo after they were shot at by pirates. In Brazil, they had to contend with crocodiles in the water and jaguars on land.
At one stage, Olie received a nasty sting. "I was in the water so I didn't see what stung me, but my entire leg went numb. We were more than 24 hours away from any help so I had to call a doctor in the UK to determine how serious it was. Not knowing was terrifying," said Olie.
The Finish Line
After 38 days of walking and 93 days paddling, the finish line was in sight. A final 24 hour push saw the pair kayaking through the night to their journey's end, in the Atlantic Ocean.
Olie said: "I've returned to the UK with so many stories, memories and photos. There's a world out there waiting to be discovered but you've got to take that first leap. I hope to inspire others to be a little more adventurous and step out of their comfort zone."
published on: 2 March 2016