My trip to Belém was quick and painless, but this also means I still don’t really know the first thing about the place. I arrived at 09:00 on a Sunday morning and headed for the busy main road out of the city to pick up a “van”, which are cheap and (over)crowded minivans and small buses, hustling people all over the place. Ignoring all the warnings about getting attacked the instant I poked my gringo face out of the taxi, I duly stood and waited for a van to Marapanim, 80km or so west of Belém. One appeared within 10 minutes and I was offered (presumably due to my greying hair and my walking pole) the only seat available – the transmission tunnel beside the driver. A couple of hours later we were dumped by the side of the road again in Marapanim to await another van to Marudá, another 70 or so kilometers northwest.
When I arrived in Marudá and got to the Hotel I was ready for bed, but the owner´s welcome included food, drink and animated conversation I could not refuse, so I tucked in and caught up with the latest news about Ed and Cho, who had been scheduled to arrive that evening. Well, the previous evening Ed had collapsed and had to be brought in for an emergency sleep. So they were now back on the road and planning to walk all the way to the finish line without a further break. OK. So I called the guys’ press office in the UK and then introduced myself to the media teams who had turned up – CNN and AP, and talked to the Reuters guy on the phone. All wanted to know lots of stuff and the toing and froing was a bit of a chore. I also got talking to Ed’s official photographer and to two other people – Kristina and Jason – who were along for the ride. Several beers were vanished in the ensuing conversation, and I eventually got to bed around 23:00, prepared to rise again at 03:00 to get on the road to meet Ed and Cho.
At 04:00 we were at the appointed road junction outside Marudá which leads to Marudá beach. Shortly afterwards we all migrated south as we couldn´t bear waiting any longer. We found the guys about 10km down the road, looking as though they were out for a morning stroll, having walked the previous 65km non-stop. Also found Pete Casey, a sponsor who has taken the time and effort (and money) to walk with the guys twice, and on this occasion had accompanied them all the way from Belém – an heroic effort it seems to me – well done Pete.
Much fun and games between there and the beach for me, organising the media interviews and filming etc. Don’t think I’d do it again – too much work, too undervalued. Anyway the whole heap arrived at the beach in reasonable shape, including Ed and Cho, and charged off into the sea for photo-shoot and celebrations (champagne in famous champagne scene courtesy Pete and I) etc. Jolly good.
Much beer was vanished again at the bar by the beach while Ed and Cho did more interviews and uploaded stuff etc., and I enjoyed myself eventually after completing my tasks and handing back to Vikki at the UK press office. It was especially nice to talk again to Pete, Kristina and Jason. It was also good to see Cho and Ed again, although they were really too tied up to do much conversing, and Ed in particular was monopolised by his photographer.
Back to the hotel with Kristina and Jason, who then departed to pastures new, arrival of the rest shortly thereafter, and eventual departure of self, Ed, Cho, Pete and photographer. Arrival at the airport, somewhat late. No time for a drink or chat – just bye-bye, check-in, flight. Back to Manaus.
And that about wraps it up for Walking The Amazon. It was an amazing feat, and I’m full of admiration for the guys. On the other hand I found I had got too caught up in it all and then felt deflated when my work was done and I was left to my own devices. Lesson learned. Good luck to all I met and maybe I’ll see them again some time. Time to get back to my own life and put it back in gear!