Great explorers and one unsung hero Sebastian Snow

British explorer Ed Stafford completed an epic 859-day trek along the Amazon River from the source to the sea.  His walk began in Camana, Peru on 2 April, 2008 and he has just finished his journey by walking onto the beach at Maruda, Brazil.  For most of the way he was partnered by a Peruvian forestry worker Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera; a man who had been hired as short term guide, and just kept going when the job was done.

There is no doubt that Ed and Cho’s feat was outstanding.  Ed had plenty of sponsors, and was able to Tweet along the journey to keep people updated on his progress.  Ed and Cho are truly heroic people and at a time when most of us want to take it easy, they proved that humans do you still possess great spirit.

When I read that Ed had completed his trek I was delighted for him and Cho, by mind harked back to my all time favourite explorer; a man who just liked to go to remote places and who didn’t really seek any publicity.  My favourite explorer is a bloke with the ridiculous name Sebastian Edward Farquason Snow, an Eton-educated British chicken farmer, who had a soft spot for South America.

Sebastian Snow was just 22 when he answered an ad in The Times wanting people to join an expedition to find the source of the Amazon River. So there he was in 1952, a young chap who had just recovered from a broken leg, clambering through the high altiplano in Peru looking for the source of the Amazon River, which he did at a ridiculously small body of water called Child Lake that was located 16,000ft high in the mountains.  Not content with this remarkable discovery, Sebastian, who clearly had too much time on his hands, decided that he’d better prove that it was the source of the Amazon, so he followed the little stream which led from the lake, all the way down to the Atlantic Coast, becoming the first person to ever travel the complete length of the Amazon.

Snow was a true British eccentric.  Robin Hanbury-Tenison, another like-minded explorer who set out on his own South American expedition with Snow, said of him: “his methods were unconventional in the extreme but surprisingly effective. He resisted all the temptations embraced by most modern travellers and explorers to carry elaborate equipment, study the area in detail and learn the language. Instead he relied entirely on locals to see him through, was often oblivious as to his exact location and communicated by shouting loudly in English. This made him an irritating companion at times, but his natural charm, his wit and his enthusiasm for the adventure in hand were very endearing.”

Other feats by Sebastian Snow included travelling by motorbike through the frozen wastes of Norway, Sweden and Finland, walking from Istanbul, Turkey to Karachi, Pakistan; he suffered frost bite whilst climbing the world’s highest active volcano; he discovered three lost cities in Peru; he travelled 4,500 miles by canoe finding a navigable water route from the Orinoco River in Venezuela to the Rio Plata in Argentina.

My favourite Sebastian Snow story is a true one, and is recounted in his book `The Rucksack Man’.  On this adventure he walked all the way from Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego to the Panama Canal, thus walking the length of South America.  He did this carrying just a rucksack and a briefcase, but he nearly didn’t make it for there was just one road out of Ushuaia and he wasn’t on it when he set out.

Sebastian Snow’s motto was “bash on regardless”, and he certainly lived up to his word, making Sebastian a bit of a hero for me.

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