An Amazon River Paddling Expedition: The Amazon Express

The Amazon Express

When I was much younger one of my goals was to travel the length of the Amazon River. That dream is never going to happen, but I can still travel down the mighty Amazon by following the exploits of West Hansen. This is the story as he prepares for the Amazon Express launching in August, 2012. West is perfectly capable of telling his own story, you can find it here on his site. I'll briefly cover a few facts about the expedition, maybe add a few comments along the way.

The goal is to paddle the 4,225 miles of the Amazon River from source to sea, and do it in less than half the time of any other expedition. As a recreational marathon paddler I can tell you this is a hell of a goal. Only 3 Amazon River expeditions have accomplished the trip since 1985, but I don't believe any have done the full distance--and none any where near the speed planned for this trip.

The Amazon River begins as a trickle just below the peak of Mount Mismi in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It is the second longest river in the world with by far the largest water flow. The river drops 17,500 feet in altitude from headwaters in Peru and runs through Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. During flood season the river may be 30 miles wide.

West's first trip to the Amazon River was as a member of Team Easy Living for the Great Amazon River Raft Race. The team won the raft race and still hold the race record. Despite many accomplishments West is a down to earth guy who goes out of his way to offer help and advice to those around him. Since he and I are in different classes I see him as he passes later in a race. Adventure, or recreation racers, start before the competitive classes--and finish later. This way we get to see the really good racers!

West Hansen works for the state of Texas as a quality management specialist (calls himself a cubicle monkey!). He lives in Austin and races in his spare time. He has been paddling in ultra-marathons since 1992, holds speed records in the Texas Water Safari and Missouri River 340, numerous team and course records, and is a multiple solo winner in regional and national events. There is no money in marathon paddling. West pays his own way. He is accepting sponsors and donations. I believe Epic Kayaks is providing boats for the trip. I don't mean to slight anyone who has donated or sponsored this expedition. You can join in or find out who on the website (s)--if West will quit messing with it!

The Amazon Express Expedition consists of a very strong and experienced team of Texas marathon paddlers. West and three of the team will hike the first 70 KM until the trickle widens enough to launch boats. From there they will adopt marathon tactics to ensure maximum speed. The support team will follow in motorized boats. Though there is a detailed plan these guys have enough experience to meet any challenge along the way.

Anybody interested in following progress of this great adventure can do so on the Internet by tracking global transponders. These little devices have added another degree of participation and safety to marathon paddling which often passes through remote territory. The transponders tell support crew when a paddler is approaching a checkpoint during a race and gives spectators the opportunity to observe progress. It really adds a degree of excitement and strategy.

There you go. Check it out! I'm going to follow every foot of the way and avidly read reports by West.

Gerald is a recreational marathon paddler who has paddled thousands of miles. During his spare time he designs and builds wood composite kayaks and other small boats.