Amazon Express Update: Out Of The Red Zone And Making Progress


It has been nearly a month since I last posted an update on the progress of the Amazon Express team and as you can imagine, over that time a lot has changed. For those who haven’t seen previous updates on this expedition it is being led by kayaker West Hansen who is attempting to paddle source-to-sea on the world’s biggest river in record time. The journey began high in the Peruvian Andes and the early stages consisted of low water flow that gave way to raging whitewater. Now, West and his crew have passed some major milestones and are making good progress down the Ucayali River, one of the Amazon’s primary tributaries.

Since we last checked in, the team has managed to put the wild whitewater sections behind them and pass through an area of the river known as the “Red Zone.” This particular section of water is dangerous but for reasons that have nothing to do with the river itself. Do to its remote location, the region through which they were paddling is controlled by local gangs and thugs and not so much the government of Peru. It’s a bit lawless on the Amazon in general, but that section is particularly notorious. Fortunately they made it through without any major incidences, although they did have locals pull guns on them on no less than three separate occasions.

The team isn’t completely out of the woods just yet however, as according to their most recent update, they believe that they are now approaching the location on the river where South African adventurer Davey du Plessis was shot back in late August. So, while they’ve passed beyond the most dangerous section of the river, there are still threats for them to be aware of as the proceed.

The pace of the journey has certainly picked up as well. Yesterday they knocked off nearly 63 miles, although much of that was spent winding through the twists and turns of the Ucayali. They’ve also had to be careful with their navigation, as there are many offshoots of the river that don’t lead to where they want to go and in order to avoid backtracking regularly, they’ve been keeping a keen eye on their maps at all times.

As they’ve moved further away from the mountains, they’ve encountered other obstacles as well. Traffic on the river has begun to pick-up and they now frequently see larger boats and barges moving up and down the waterway. The days remain warm and humid, and the evenings are cool. The humidity makes it difficult for any of their gear to dry, which is to be expected on any expedition to the rainforest. While I was there a few years back I had certain items that simply didn’t dry until I came home. Additionally, they’re starting to run into more insects as well, which can annoying and frustrating on an entirely different level.

While this expedition has been underway for more than six weeks now, they also haven’t reached the Amazon proper just yet. That means they have many more weeks to go until they’re finished. When it is all said and done, they’ll have paddled more than 4000 miles (6440 km) from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. It remains to be seen if they can do it in record time, but regardless of the speed, this is a fantastic adventure.

Kraig Becker