On 21st February, our two team leads Neil Laughton & Jon Beswick pulled the entire expedition party together for a briefing on their detailed plans for the adventure ahead.
It’s taken us a couple of years or so to get here (due to the global pandemic), with a number of changes along the way both in terms of dates, participants, and physical plans for the adventure.
With the final team members almost set it was a great turn out with 7 from each of the two teams of 8 on the call.
Jon’s team kicked off the intro’s and were made up of Jon Beswick, Maddy Chapman, Oli Watkins, Tony Dunkerly, Will Fitzgibbon, Maddie Difazio-Wright, & Kaylem Alavi. Making up the final place in Jon’s team is Sadie Whitlocks, though sadly Sadie was unable to join us.
Neil’s team went next and consisted of Neil Laughton, Jeff Halls, Ant Brown, Giles Fairmann, Mark Newman, Meriel Davies, & Chris Oakley. The only absenteeism from Neil’s team was Mick Bishop. He had a family birthday and whilst he’s prepared to face some fearsome creatures in the jungle… he was clearly too scared to upset the missus.
Next on the agenda was a check in on everyone’s travel plans. Most confirmed they’d sorted flights through Dial-a-flight though one or two were still outstanding. Relevant details were shared. The majority of us are flying in from England via Madrid, to Lima with a short internal flight up to Iquitos. One was heading in from Africa.
With the travel plans into our starting point at Iquitos sorted Jon moved on to share a few more details of the actual Route we’d be taking on the river, sharing this high level image and explaining “there are many different maps of this area and they all seem to be different though this’ll give you an idea of where we’re going”.
Neil then explained that after a day of climatisation his team will set off first, initially in 4x4s, until we reach our boat crew who will then whisk us off by powerboat up to the Derado Lake, “and when I say powerboat I mean long wooden boats with a propeller sticking out the back end on an angle into the water” he added.
Some say the Derado Lake is the true source of the Amazon and it’s where many people believe there is a lost city of gold. It’s here we’re likely to see pink dolphins.
This initial group will all be riding individual paddle boards and will be the first people ever to tackle this particular stretch of the Amazon on such boards.
The following day, the second team led by Jon will head up to the same lake for the start of their journey. They will be riding two 10man paddle boards with 4 people on each. Again they will be the first people ever to do this journey on such boards.
Both teams will be winding their way down the Yucayali covering between 25 & 30km per day everyday before we end up in Nauta.
“It’s not a race”… Neil insisted, and there will be plenty of time to take in our surroundings though there was a rye smile on Jon’s face and we all know that with a younger fitter crew (potentially) he will be determined to catch the first group 😉
The seed for a micro competition was planted.
The meeting continued, we confirmed the settlement date for any outstanding balances (the expedition is entirely self funded by all the individuals involved). For anyone reading this planning such an adventure you need to be realistic about the costs involved and make sure you have a plan in place to pay for it (before getting too excited). If funds are a challenge, budget wisely, set a plan, and shop around for the kit you’ll need – there are plenty of bargains out there (but more on the kit shortly). It’s also good to seek advice from others who have experience of heading into the environment you’re planning to visit, you can pick up some great hints and tips.
There was some great news on the charity front and a massive thankyou to the 105+ people who have been kind enough to sponsor us. The total raised for the charities we are supporting now total £3,245.00 plus an extra £642.50 in gift aid. The expedition never set out to be a charitable event but for a number of personal reasons amongst our members and of course the fact that charities have had a real hard time during the pandemic, a number of the team decided to dedicate their efforts and use it as a fund raising opportunity to add their support. You can read more about who and why on our Justgiving page.
It was also great to see so many bios now added to this site. This is to give all of our supporters a chance to see and learn about the team, who we are, and our reasons for taking part. We’re hoping to add the last three members shortly… so watch this space. If you’re interested in understanding the types of people who go for an expedition like this please take a look at our“about us” page.
Our attention turned next to the kit we need to take. It’s not everyday you head into the rainforest and cut yourself off from civilisation though clearly some had experience of similar adventures and were clued up. For the uninitiated amongst us the kit run through was really helpful and created a sense of excitement that just made things start to feel even more real.
Neil and Jon briefed us on the communal stuff they’d be supplying including stuff like the boards, paddles, repair kit, waterproof barrels, food and cooking equipment.
They explained the types of conditions and climate we could expect and provided a list of stuff we’d need during the day on the boards. This included shoes and clothes you can get wet (they recommended long sleeved top, trousers & wetsuit boots or walking boots). A light weight rucksack with camelback or water bottle for hydration and a number of personal health and safety items like suncream, personal meds, sunglasses, hat etc.
We were also told that both teams would have one barrel with them containing just a few essential items for an overnight stop. This included a lightweight jungle sleeping bag, down jacket (temperature can drop in the evenings) and Hammocks. It was stressed we need to travel light, and the types of hammock / sleeping bags you can get compress down to the size of a large apple. Will was kind enough to share a pic of the one he took into the jungle last time. The reality that we’ll be doing some serious wild camping started to sink in.
On the motor boats we’ll be leaving a dry bag with some other personal items that would support us through the two weeks we’re out there, change of clothes, chargers, medi kits, toiletries etc but again… we’ll be travelling light.
During the wrap up Neil and Jon explained we’re going to be cut off from the outside world for over a week. None of our phones will be useable to contact home etc, though clearly we’ll be able to use them for pictures. Both teams will have satellite phones for emergencies only, and we touched on the Rescue & Medical evacuation policies available which is a MUST HAVE for a trip like this.
There is something strangely appealing in the solitude that brings. Many of us dream of escaping the rat race at times… and this feels like one of those amazing opportunities to do so.
See y’all soon