British Explorer About to Finish Trek of Amazon River

British explorer Pete Casey’s six-year Amazonian journey will finally come to an end this Saturday.

Casey will arrive at Peru’s Pacific coast after walking and swimming 7,000km along the Amazon River. The builder from London “gave up everything in a bid to become the first person to walk from the mouth of the Amazon to its source,” a news release said.

But which source?

But, as we’ve covered previously, the Amazon’s source is not universally agreed on. The river’s source has frustrated adventurers, geographers, and hydrologists for at least 70 years.

The two most common definitions of source can give you very different source points, an important consideration for any expedition claiming a record. There is the perennial definition, which cites the source as the most distant, continually running point from the river’s mouth. Then there is the ephemeral definition, which is simply the furthest point from which water could flow. The river’s length ranges between 6,510km and 7,088km, depending on the source and the season.

Casey chose to head for the perennial source (uninterrupted flow) of the river on the Apurimac tributary. It seems likely that “the Godfather of Amazon paddling”, Piotr Chmielinski, influenced Casey’s decision. In 1985-1986, Chmielinski and Joe Kane became the first to travel the length of the river under human power, starting from this source on Mount Mismi, at the headwaters of the Apurimac. Since his journey, Chmielinski has been involved in many Amazon expeditions in an advisory capacity. Naturally, he points those he advises, including Casey, toward what he still believes is the source. Casey reached that goal on May 16.

To the Pacific

By trekking further to the Pacific Ocean, Casey has now walked east to west across South America along the Amazon River.

He documented his journey on his website, Ascent of the Amazon. His most recent and penultimate blog post traced his journey across Peru’s Majes Valley.

Majes Valley, Peru. A river runs through a dry, mountainous landscape dotted with a few trees.

A view of Majes Valley, Peru.

A dangerous journey

The expedition has brought its share of dangers and challenges, from near-drownings to violent encounters with locals. As Casey wrote on June 19, the final chapter of his journey was no less difficult.

“Walking through the Majes Valley will hold bittersweet memories for me now, as my father sadly passed away while I was walking here,” Casey wrote. “I had hoped to see him again on my return to the UK, and it means that I have lost both my parents over the course of the expedition. This has been mentally very tough, and I will be thinking of them both as I approach the ocean.”

ExplorersWeb last tracked down Casey in December 2021, as he headed toward Cuzco, Peru, and the steep hiking of the Andes.

Pete Casey stands in front of a desert gorge.

Trading trowel for machete

Casey’s Amazon objective officially started at the river’s Atlantic delta back in December 2015.

“I’ve decided to swap my brick trowel for a machete, my work boots for walking boots, my pickup truck for a backpack, my spoken English for Portuguese, and the concrete jungle for the natural jungle to attempt this challenge,” he wrote.

Throughout his journey, Casey has been attacked and imprisoned. He spent all his money, faced COVID-19-related delays, and ran out of insurance and anti-malarial medication.

It will finally be over when Casey dips his feet into the sea at the Pacific beach of La Punta on Saturday, more than 2,300 days after he started.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.