Field Notes: Amazon Undertaking

We love fall and winter. No, not just because of the waves and lack of crowds but because talented standup athletes and adventurers end the competition season and start doing cool trips again that allow us to live vicariously through them. Over the past year and a half, SUPthemag.com has done a number of blog and video series. Field Notes is one of our favorites. Here, SUP magazine contributor Shelby Stanger checks in from the Amazon, where she and a group of athletes are preparing to paddle one of Earth’s great drainages. Stay tuned as we continue this series over the next two weeks.

Amazon Diaries Day 1 October 2, 2011

Our driver is taking us in circles through Lima to get us to our hotel. We have four inflatable C4 Waterman iSUPs, enough gear to rival an REI warehouse sale and a gallon of bug spray. After 65 minutes of what should take us only 20, our driver finally tells us that with all of our gear, he is worried someone is following us, so he has taken a round about way to our first destination.

I’m with Mariko Strickland and photographer Chase Olivier. We are going to standup paddle the Amazon.

I’m going in with the mindset that we’re embarking on a Joseph Conrad-esque version of Heart of Darkness, but hoping for something more like an “It’s a Small World,” Disneyland ride.

To prepare, my friends have graciously offered every crocodile, piranha and snake story they can muster, but honestly, I have no clue what to expect.

For all we know, no one has standup paddled the Amazon–at least not where we’re going.

Kurt Holle, who owns Rainforest Expeditions, has been leading trips in the Amazon for the last few decades and wants us to teach him and his guides to standup paddle. After seeing SUP for the first time a few months ago on the beaches in Ecuador, Holle believes standup boards will make the perfect jungle exploration/research vessels.

The Peruvian government has granted us access to the most remote places: Spots where tourists have never heard of. A Hungarian macaw bird as well as a native medicinal researcher will be joining us to explore where traditional boats can’t.

In the next week, we’ll be camping a few nights, staying at lodges, then paddling.

We were told to bring a headlamp, water gear, mosquito repellant, closed-toed shoes (for snakes), binoculars for animal watching and an open mind.

I purposely did as little research as possible so as not to have any expectations. Although I did catch the tail end of an Anthony Bourdain episode of No Reservations, where he does a culinary expedition to this region. Anthony said the Amazon is one of the only places in the world where you can only get food from the Amazon…because it is so damn hard to get to.

He also said it’s an amazing place, but much better in retrospect. By the time they’d wrapped their shoot, his crew looked like they’d finished an ultra marathon. Everyone was sweaty, sick and pretty famished for a food show.

Despite all of that, I can’t wait to get out there.

Photos by Chase Olivieri

Click here for Part II.

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