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Ascending South America


South America

Ascend of South America
River Expedition 2018

by Andy Leemann
Photography by: Apal Singh, Klaus Kranewitter, Patricia Torales

Finally we are all here in Buenos Aires on the threshold of our dream becoming a reality. Getting here means being thousands of miles away from our homes spread across Switzerland, Germany, India, Argentina, Netherlands, Denmark and Italy. Arriving at this point has been an odyssey of thousands and thousands of emails, countless long distance phone calls and Skype conversations across the continents, dozens of flight, some connecting some not, and at times permits that had ensure passage would be arriving well after the flight had departed. But most of this is now behind us.

Logistic Team in Argentina San Fernando


which is the most important and difficult task and if a team can get factors right, success and a rewarding sense of teamwork will follow. Humans are in the mix, and each team member brings along all of their baggage—for the good and for the less good.

We worked good as a team and managed quite well the 5 weeks of depending on each other 24hrs a day. We had our struggles and our highs and lows. As a leader I must inspire a high level of commitment and performance. But as a human being it is not always easy to deal with the pressure of the unknown and the expectations everybody has in me. In the beginning of the trip I felt sometimes too much pressure on my shoulders for various reasons. I also tend to expect too much from my crew. Crew changes are always healthy but also sometimes difficult to adjust fast enough to the daily grind of the old team.

Andy Leemann, Swiss Expedition leader | Alfredo Cucciani, Argentina Logistics | Stefano Corruzi, Italia in charge of the Boats | Apal Singh, India Photography and Film | Patricia Torales, Argentina Photography | Klaus Kranewitter, German Video and Drone | Paul Schneider, German Kitchen in Charge | Moritz Schneider, German Crew | Gaja Formels, German Crew | Edwin Hiemstra, Netherlands Crew
 | Luiz Kumpel, Brazil Logistic

The aim of the Expedition was to travel through four countries: Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. The teams will journey 6800 km in 72 days on 8 different rivers, from the Delta of the Paraná River in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Manaus, the heart of the Amazon river, in inflatable boats and capture as much of the unique natural landscape, flora and fauna as possible.

We focus on the diverse cultural traditions on the banks of these rivers, documenting the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on these areas and the experiences of the communities living there.

Tomorrow we buy food and supplies, Andy takes a final look at the equipment and safety gear and the crew carries on, among other things, this unending task of tying loose ends and dealing with surprises that grow in the preparations of expeditions like mushrooms. Our boats and engines are ready.


Yesterday we could not write because all fingers had remained crossed for so long that they looked more like chopsticks in untrained hands. Reason? Simple, we had no concrete news about our boats certificates after 5 months of dealing for it. We got the paper work done on the 6th September thanks to Gustavo from Hard Craft, and so we kicked-off on the 7th. It has been a nightmare to deal with the authorities in Argentina, so all we want is to get off and be on the mighty Parana River.
Anyone who has ever organized an expedition would know the procedure. Excitement, chaos, heartaches, hard work, and wow!, we are ready to leave. The start was hectic, packing the boats organizing the crew, tending friends and visitors and trying to control the emotions. But nevertheless we got off from San Fernando to our

Stage 1
Buenos Aires to Asunción 1522Km.

Cruising along beautiful channels to reach the huge Paraná River, our river road for the next 1150 km. The Paraná River, runs through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Among South American rivers it is second in length only to the Amazon River. It merges first with the Paraguay River and then further downstream with the Uruguay River to form the Río de la Plata and discharges into the Atlantic Ocean.


The weather was cold and the current stronger than expected so it was not easy with the heavy loaded AB Inflatable 14’Rib’s driven by 40 HP outboard engines to cover the planed daily mileage. We had excellent marine charts, but with our small 4.30m Rib’s it was better to navigate in protected waters then to follow the shipping channels and face the waves, current and the daily thermic winds.


The second day the lesson was learned quickly when we were running out of fuel just 5Km. before the safe port of San Nicolas. Luckily some harbour pilots had a spare 20 litres and saved our day. My calculation was 2.5Km. per Liter, but we had to correct it to 2.2Km.


The first days we were camping mostly in Club Nauticos where the people had big hearts and helped with whatever needs we had. People living on the rivers are worldwide a family and the Argentinians were just wonderful.


The biggest problem was to make sure that we had enough gasoline and cash to pay for all the expenses. It was a daily challenge to change money, since the country just went to a financial crisis and many times the shop owners would rather not sell then to lose money!


In the pre-delta national Park in Argentina, through which the river runs, there are nearly 200 species of fish and almost as many types of birds as well. We enjoyed the pure nature along with the sometimes heavy industry along the banks and an immense shipping traffic.

Troubles with authorities

Reporting in every bigger town in Argentina to the Coast guard was a must, but we had all the correct documents and so we were not worried until we reached Bella Vista. We got warned before from other captains that the Prefectura in this beautiful town was not very friendly. We reported as usual and all was OK until we received a heavy armed group of army officers at 2:00 am at night for a passport control. In the morning they visited us again and told us that we are not allowed to leave the port. We did not know what was going on, but we realized that something is stinky. Negotiating and trying to understand was one thing, but why this commander, who was a lady, was so unfriendly dealing with us was just hard to understand.

We were asking for help to our contacts in Buenos Aires and finally after being hold for over 24hrs we got the papers to leave the next morning. Some higher officials got involved and sorted out the problems.

Paraguay River

North of Corrientes we reached the confluence with the Paraguay River, a major river in south -central South America, running through Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. It would be our river road for the next 2000 km to the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso until Cáceres.

It was a river with clear water and a strong current. The nature became more beautiful and the towns and villages fewer. 
We had to stick to the left side to stay in Argentina waters since the river forms the border with Paraguay.

We found some very pretty camps and the voyage became more and more a challenging expedition. Lovely nature, wonderful cruising but also challenging navigation. The real Gasoline problem started here, we had to find the supply of 200 litres we needed for a day’s 150 km with 3 Boats.
The problem was that the Navy did not allow spare tanks, but talking to locals we found out that nobody cared about these rules. That helped us a lot since we were able to carry up to 400 litres with us.

Crossing the border in to Paraguay was as usual a long haul with Argentina’s officials and a short and friendly act with the Paraguay Custom and Immigration. They took care of us with gasoline, money exchange and gave us a place on their boat to sleep.


It is the same story anywhere. The Argentinians warned us that as soon we are reaching Paraguay it is dangerous and that they will rob our boats, rape and kill us if we do not have guns to defend us. The Paraguayans will tell you the same and Brazilians do so with the Bolivians. The story goes on that there are pirates everywhere and their advice is if the boats are not fast enough, better surrender and give anything they want.

My advice to the crew was always that we have to be careful, but in my 60.000 km on river expedition nothing ever has happened. In camps at night we switched off our lights if a boat was approaching. If the boats were moored more than 50 m away from our camp somebody would sleep with the boats. The boats were always with a crew member.

Highlights on the way to Asuncion were frequent sighting of river dolphins jumping out of water.

All along we have also been seeing lots of aquatic bird life which is rather unusual, considering that there is so much of boating and fishing activity on the river.

Asuncion is a big city. We stayed on a camp ground invited by a Yacht Club. It was a night of anxiety and very strong winds gusting up to 65 knots. The ferry dock with the ferry and our boats went drifting and we had to rescue the watchmen from the dock. But finally the tired souls got the better of the angry rain gods and the sound of snores drowned the hollows of the fading storm.

Most of the crew left early morning to visit the famous Iguazu falls, one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring sights, the cascades are simply astounding and everyone was just overwhelmed when they met us the next day.

Apal our Cameraman could not join us in Paraguay because as an Indian he always has to apply and wait for a visa. Edwin and Luiz joined the crew and had quickly to adjust to the group.

STAGE 1 Buenos Aires – Asuncion 1522km. average 100km per day
01.Sept.18 – arrivel in Buenos Aires
02.Sept.18 – arrivel Crew,prepare equipment, San Fernando
03.Sept.18 – arrivel Crew,prepare equipment, San Fernando
04.Sept.18 – preparing for the trip,Ribs,Food,etc. San Fernando
05.Sept.18 – San Fernando –Zarate
06.Sept.18 – Zarate-San Nicolas
07.Sept.18 – Zarate-San Nicolas
08.Sept.18 – San Nicolas- Rosario-Bella Vista
09.Sept.18 – Bella Vista-Santa Fe
10.Sept.18 – Santa Fe-Parana-Villa Urquiza
11.Sept.18 – Villa Urquiza-La Paz
12.Sept.18 – La Paz-Esquina
13.Sept.18 – Esquina-Goya
14.Sept.18 – Goya -Bella Vista
15.Sept.18 – Bella Vista-Coriente
16.Sept.18 – Coriente
17.Sept.18 – Coriente-Paso de la Patria-Pilar
18.Sept.18 – Pilar-Formosa/Alberdi,Border Crossing
19.Sept.18 – Reaching Asuncion
20.Sept.18 – Asuncion, Trip to Iguazu
21.Sept.18 – Asuncion, Return from Iguazu

Stage 2
Asuncion – Cáceres 1973km


The expectations for this second stage where high, since we approached the Pantanal, a natural region encompassing the world’s largest tropical wetland area. It is located mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, but it extends into Mato Grosso and portions of Bolivia and Paraguay. Various sub regional ecosystems exist, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics.

The Paraguay River was still immense, but we found more and more beautiful little short cuts with lots of bird life and Caymans. A young Anaconda just cruising along.

We enjoyed very helpful folks along the river and the 480 km to the Brazilian border we managed without any major problems, but the heat during the day became tough, and we had to force our self to drink water and cool down by just having a swim. Slowly but surely the mosquitoes became a plague.

Our lovely crewmember Patricia had to leave us just before the border to go back to Buenos Aires.

The border crossing was a huge surprise to all of us. A lady in a hardware shop stamped our passport, she works in the morning as an immigration officer and in the afternoon here in the shop. Luckily she had the stamps in her bag and so saved us a long journey to the Immigration office.

On the Brazilian side we met our friend and expedition veteran Apal again, did the paperwork and of we went to explore the unknown southern Pantanal and the 500 km to our next big destination Corumba. My biggest worry was as usual gasoline and cash money, but there was always a solution and by now we filled up to 400 litres whenever gas was available. The Flexible Orca tanks became our babies and proofed to be the key to navigate.

Every kilometre we dived deeper in to this wonderful natural paradise of the Pantanal.

Corumba is a typical tropical style city with lots of activities and also a border town to Bolivia. We had an invitation from Colonel Rabelo and his lovely wife Marcia at Moinho Cultural Centre, all this was organized by our crewmember Luiz Fernando Kumpel, a Brazilian Businessman who helped us a lot with logistics. We enjoyed the well-organized school and could not believe that an education place on such a high standard would exist in the middle of deep Brazil.

After 2 days of well-deserved rest and mending the wounds, we undertook the next 350 km to Acurizal an eco-farm where we had 450 litres of fuel depot and an invitation to stay. With mixed feelings what to expect and what was ahead of us we started the new adventure.

The first night we stayed at Instituto Acaia a wonderful NGO that works with the education of Children of the Pantanal, we had a beautiful event with the kids. We slept in a dormitory and enjoyed great food with superb kids and teachers.

We navigated on a very lucky shot, and then we met Adrian a local guide, who was waiting for us and invited us for a cruise to a very special place, the Amolar Mountain Ridge where two small rivers join and it is the unique crystal clear water streams that only can be found in the entire area. We were swimming with piranhas and Caymans and enjoyed the place like little kids.

Our friend and guide Adrian invited us to his house where his wife was waiting with a typical Brazilian dish, like fish, beans, rice, pasta and a bit of salad. We stayed the night with them and enjoyed the beauty of the place.

The next morning he and his family guided us through wonderful wetlands and small channels to Acurizal. We had tropical rain and strong winds, but everybody was just happy and thankful for this awesome experience.

Acurizal was a very special place. The caretaker was a humble and helpful man. As promised Colonel Rabelo had for us the 400 litres of gasoline, and we got a little hut to stay dry and not attacked by the millions of mosquitoes.

Douglas Trent our partner navigated 460 km down from Cáceres to meet us and help with logistics to do the final step. The big surprise; his boat had plenty food for us and an icebox full of cold beer.


We extended the stay for a second night just to recover health wise. The toll from the sun and the humidity, the endless torture of the millions of mosquitoes, the water quality finally signed all of us. We realized that yes, paradise exists but the price is very high and that is why there is very little local population, and we have not seen gringos for weeks. Mosquito repellent which should be effective for 10hrs was useless after 10 minutes and the clothing was not helping since these buggers just sting through it. The result of all this and the 3000 km we had in our bones, showed up with dehydration, fevers and not feeling well.

Acurizal was great to lick our wounds on a place like this. The Ribs were guarded by two caimans and behind the little house we had a 3 m anaconda eating the rats. All around there where monkeys, parrots, piranhas, capybaras, tarantulas etc. and a never expected pure nature. The rest of 450km to Cáceres, on which we enjoyed the company, knowhow and support from Douglas Trent with his crew Wagner both at their home terrain knowing every corner of this beautiful Pantanal, spotting jaguars and the wild life in general for many years. It was like living in a zoo, absolutely amazing the Caymans, Capybaras, the aquatic bird life and the stories about jaguars. The animals just looked at us curious not really afraid of human beings, since in this places hardly anyone comes. The night camps became a mosquito’s nightmare and so we just wanted to get to Cáceres to escape from the plague. As I said before, paradise has his price and that is good so.

It was like living in a zoo, absolutely amazing the Caymans, Capybaras, the aquatic bird life and the stories about jaguars.

It was like living in a zoo, absolutely amazing the Caymans, Capybaras, the aquatic bird life and the stories about jaguars.

Arriving in Cáceres was a once in a live time event. Hundreds of children where welcoming the team. Jussara and Douglas with their NGO “Bichos of Pantanal” organized a wonderful event with the school and local dancers performed some typical rhythms of the Mato Grosso. The team was high on impressions which we carried for the last 3500 km. Tears where flowing and emotions just had its space. The first half of the expedition we did with grace and enjoyment. The moment of saying good bye to most of the crewmembers is always somehow heart-breaking. The new crew was expected the next day and on we go to the 3. Stage.

STAGE 2 Asuncion – Cáceres, 1973km. average 116km. per day Asuncion – Puerto Murtinho 480km

22.Sept.18 – Asuncion-San Pedro de Ycuamandiayu
23.Sept.18 – Asuncion-San Pedro de Ycuamandiayu
24.Sept.18 – San Pedro de Ycuamandiayu-Conception
25.Sept.18 – Conception-Puerto Pinasco
26.Sept.18 – Puerto Pinasco-Puerto Murtinho Border Brazil
Puerto Murtinho-Forte Coimbra, 333km
27.Sept.18 – Puerto Murtinho Crossing Border
28.Sept.18 – Puerto Murtinho-Fuerte Olimpo
29.Sept.18 – Fuerte Olimpo-Bahia Negra(Big Town)
30.Sept.18 – Bahia Negra-Forte Coimbra Fuel Deposit with Colonel Rabelo
Forte Coimbra- Corumba 205KM
01.Oct.18 – Forte Coimbra-Corumba
02.Oct.18 – Corumba EVENTS by Luiz
Corumba – ACURIZAL 350km
03.Oct.18 – Corumba-Vista Bella
04.Oct.18 – Vista Bella-Lago Gaiba,Puerto Quijarro, ACURIZAL, Douglas will join the Expedition
05.Oct.18 – ACURIZAL – Cáceres 465km
06.Oct.18 – Lago Gaiba,Puerto Quijarro-Porto Conceicao
07.Oct.18 – Porto Conceicao-Bracinho Hotel Bahiazinha
08.Oct.18 – Bracinho Hotel Bahiazinha – Caseres
09.Oct.18 – Cáceres: EVENT by Douglas, desinfect boats, New Crew joining the Team
10.Oct.18 – Cáceres,Prepare Boats for Road transport

Vila Bela – Gujara-Mirim 1450Km.

Cáceres to Manaus 3300 km, Stage 3 and 4, The first two Stages of 3360 km from Buenos Aires to Cáceres we mastered bravely, and it was our midway stop where we changed the river systems which obliged us to sterilize the boats and make sure that we would not bring the Golden Mussel, which is a terrible treat to all the Rivers worldwide and it has become an invasive species, to the Amazon water system.


It was just Apal, Stefano, Edwin and me as old crew. The new explorers Steen, Wenka, Brando, Paul and Toni just worked as a perfect team. We didn’t need much time to adjust to each other. Wenka as the only woman gave some feminine touch to the men group, so we sensibilized our language a bit and found out very quickly that in many ways, she was better than us, and never complained about the hardship we all had.

Andy Leemann, Expedition Leader | 
Stefano Coruzzi, Co Leader | 
Apal Singh, Photograper and Media
 | Edwin Hiemstra, Crew
 | Wenka Booij, Crew
 | Sijbrand Booij, Crew
 | Steen Christensen, Crew
Paul Boehler, Crew
 | Antonio Pages, Crew

Land Transport

We had to transport the boats for 320 km by truck to Vila Bela da Santíssima Trindade. The city is located on the upper Guaporé River close to the border with Bolivia. Today, because most inhabitants descend from former African slaves, the town creates the impression of a town in the African jungle rather than one in the Amazon Jungle.

Guaporé River

Flows through Central-West Region of Brazil. The river rises in the Serra (mountains) dos Parecis in Mato Grosso State, Brazil, and loops southward, westward, and then north-north westward past Mato Grosso city. I have not seen a river (which is hardly explored) running through untouched jungle with such elegance and solitude.
We were prepared for a hard trip diving into the unknown, but in this clear water we just had new adventures day by day and always camped in wonderful places.
The 390 km from Vila Bela da Santissima to Pousada Entre Rios we managed well, and even got an invitation from the owners of the Pousada to rest there for two nights and enjoy their hospitality. We had an awesome stay there.

The navigation

The next 1000 km became more difficult and once a while we stranded on hidden sandbanks and made contact with hard rocks. But this sort of navigation keeps the adrenalin running and the crew on its toe’s. After entering the Rio Verde, we continued north-westward along the border between Bolivia and Brazil and we reached the Mamoré River above the town of Rodrigues Alves. These beautiful rivers flow through a region of tropical rainforest, we visited settlements of Indians and Mestizos along the banks, all really friendly and helpful people. 
 Rocks and Sandbanks our daily challenge.


Our biggest worry was always somehow available in the bigger villages due to the border with Bolivia and the flourishing smuggling between the countries. Our fuel consumption got 30% better navigating with the current; we covered 450 km with the two 70 L flexible Orca fuel tanks per boat.


In the Jungle they are not necessarily those we expected. A sleeping explorer is more likely to be drowned by rapidly rising floodwaters than killed by a predator. There were certainly some terrifying creatures like venomous snakes, piranhas, jaguars and enormous caiman’s. Yet, as with most animals, even these fearsome predators preferred to keep well away from us.

My experience of travelling and leading expeditions in Africa, South America, Alaska and Asia give me the confidence to keep my team out of troubles. Every day we talked about possible danger and life jackets were a must. As for my experience, cuts and scratched and open mosquito bites are the worst if not immediately attended. Infections can be terrible in the jungle far away from any medical facility.


We had supply for 3-5 days with us being prepared not to find much in this little populated jungle. To our surprise in every settlement there were women cooking for us making a dollar on the side. So instead of losing weight we almost became fat!


The region was witness to numerous frontier conflicts between the Spanish and the Portuguese and the struggles of both with hostile Indians.
Forte Príncipe da Beira, constructed near the confluence of the Guaporé and the Mamoré in the late 18th century, is a reminder of this era.

The river conditions

The water level was historically low, and so we had various sections where navigating became very difficult in low water and rocky grounds. Our boats and engines were the only and most precious means of transport. We did well and got through these sections without bigger damage. The river took from us a couple of propellers and that was it.


On this forgotten river were just amazing, always bouncing between Bolivia and Brazil like the motto “in which country we sleep tonight”. We had to stay on dry land to make sure that the mosquitos were supportable. We stayed in small villages, farms or under the protection of big trees in our tents. On one of the places we met fisherman’s from Bolivia. They were happy to show us a couple of hidden spots or lagoons where the fish was trapped because of low water. It’s quite an adventure to be so deep in the bush with locals, knowing where to expect danger. The piranhas are aggressive when they are trapped, tons of caymans all over, not to mention the snakes! The guys had guns in case of jaguars.

The Guaporé river had clear water in contrast to the brown, silt-laden Mamoré. For several
miles below their juncture, the identity of the two streams was clearly visible.
The last stretch to Guajará-Mirim was an exciting ride sharing the borders with these two wonderful countries and the friendly people like, Indians, gold-miners, adventurers, farmers and seafarers.

STAGE 3 Vila Bella – Gujara-Mirim 1450 km. average 105 km per day

11. Oct.18 Road transport to Vila Bela da Santissima Trindade 280 km
12. Oct.18 Prepare the Boats Vila Bela da Santissima – Posada entre Rios 390km
13.Oct.18 Vila Bela da Santissima Trindade-Betania 14 03′ 60 21′ Road
14.Oct.18 Vila Bela da Santissima Trindade-Betania 14 03′ 60 21′ Road accs.
15.Oct.18 Betania 14 03′ 60 21′ Road’-Posada entre Rios or Guapore Pesca Hotel
16.Oct.18 Posada entre Rios/ Guapore Pesca Hotel – Posada entre Rios –
Pimenteiras do Oeste
 – Pimenteiras do Oeste – Rolim de Moura 260km
17.Oct.18 Pimenteiras do Oeste -Acurcial
18.Oct.18 Acurcial-Rolim de Moura
Rolim de Moura – Costa Marques 385km
19.Oct.18 Rolim de Moura-Piedras Negras
19.Oct.18 Piedras Negras-Costa Marques
20.Oct.18 Piedras Negras-Costa Marques
Costa Marques- Gujara Mirim, 400km

21.Oct.18 Costa Marques- (Forte Principe 35km)
22.Oct.18 Forte Principe Da Beira-Rodrigues Alves RIO Guapore
23.Oct.18 Rodrigues Alves-Gujara Mirim
24.Oct.18 Rodrigues Alves-Gujara Mirim 
CREW Change

Gujara Mirim – Manaus 1484Km.

Guajará-Mirim, city and river port, lies along the Mamoré River. Primarily a transportation centre of regional importance, Guajará-Mirim has handled traffic in such products as rubber, lumber, and palm oil in the past times.
The situation today, Guajará-Mirim is considered principal entry points for drug trade and contraband into Brazil as the source of the cocaine is increasingly Bolivia. Locals told us, the drug often finds its way to Brazil by crossing the Mamoré River.

Guajará-Mirim, city and river port, lies along the Mamoré River. Primarily a transportation centre of regional importance, Guajará-Mirim has handled traffic in such products as rubber, lumber, and palm oil in the past times.
The situation today, Guajará-Mirim is considered principal entry points for drug trade and contraband into Brazil as the source of the cocaine is increasingly Bolivia. Locals told us, the drug often finds its way to Brazil by crossing the Mamoré River.

Andy Leemann, Expedition Leader | 
Stefano Coruzzi, Co Leader
 | Apal Singh, Photographer and Media
 | Steen Christensen, Crew
 | Paolo Piattella, Crew | Werner Huerlimann, Crew

We were lucky to get permission to moor our boats next to a military hospital boat, which had 24 hour security standby. Quickly we did find a Posada and welcomed our new crew, Paolo Piattella and Werner Huerlimann from Switzerland. That night we had a big celebration of Toni ,our Mallorquin crew, his 60th birthday. 

Stefano my co-leader 
called on the Marina do Brazil to inform them and make sure that our paperwork was in perfect order and he also got the confirmation to navigate the 250 km to the Jirau Dams which was our most challenging stretch. Lots of rapids and rasor sharp rocks. We were all excited, looking forward to riding some serious white water, but getting warnings and local information from the professional river guides made us change the plans. Because of the historically low water of the Mamoré River, there was no passage or possibility to get through with our boats. Disappointment was big, but we had to accept the fact and Stefano quickly organized a truck to bring the boats to Porto Velho.

In Porto Velho we said bye-bye to the parting friends and with Stefano, Steen, Paolo and Werner the next adventure started, 1200 km on the Madeira River to the mighty Amazon River and then Manaus.
With the help of locals we quickly unloaded and prepared the boats in a small commercial port next to the Ponte Nova bridge in Porto Velho.

Madeira River

The River of Cuyari, named by the Portuguese Madeira or the Wood River, showed his teeth. We had to be alert because drifting wood was plenty to encounter and dangerous. We expected nothing but a big stream and it turned out to be rather fascinating



We had the time to explore gold-digging camps, some guys disappeared quickly since this activity is illegal. Thousands have come in search of gold but few have become rich. We witnessed these miners often working in the most squalid and unhealthy condition. They use mercury to separate gold from sand, and often dump large quantities of this highly poisonous metal in the river, killing fish and other wildlife. Their powerful water pumps and sieves disturb the river sediment.

Paradise exists

Looking for a place to camp we entered a very small inlet with a strong current. To our surprise it was possible to navigate all the way to a small village with the name Nazaré where an old man was kind enough to give us shelter for a couple of Reales. All these river-people suffer on unusual low or high water because of climate change. Our host told us that in 2014 hundred villages got completely destroyed as the government decided to open the flood gates due to heavy rain and construction on the dams in Porto Velho. A result I see all around the world when human start to interfere with nature.

The next morning we went up this beautiful little stream despite the locals telling us that there was not enough water for our boats. The landscape bordering the Madeira River alternates between floodplains and lacustrine plains formed by accumulated sediments. 
Navigation was spectacular, and we discovered a paradise which is very hard to describe by words or photography.

On the track of Theodore Roosevelt

Our next goal was to navigate for 200 km on the tracks of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration. The River of Doubt is the true story of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.

We started in Novo Aripuanã and explored for two days this beautiful and forgotten river. The few Indian villages we visited were nicely organized, and we had shelter in a fishing boat to see us through a strong tropical storm. After 60 days travelling with our boats we still were surprised to find places which present such harmony with nature. Obviously we did not get all the way up to the tricky part of the Roosevelt River, this task had been done by other explorers.


Coming closer to the finish line the Amazon River filled us with a sense of “wow we did it”, but I warned the crew, it is not finished yet so let’s keep the guard up. The Madeira River with its strong current and brown water full of drift wood kept us attentive, and still it happened. One of our boats hit a drift wood and damaged the tube on the portside quite badly. We had to do an emergency repair on a sandbank just to make sure that no further damage would occur. Luckily, Stefano, who grew up with inflatable boats and was our man in charge of all the boats and engines, did the job without hesitation.

In defence for the AB Inflatable boats I have to say that in my last 60,000 Km in extreme hostile environment I never damaged a tube navigating. All my damage we had in the last 15 years did happen by transporting the boats with trucks or porters. There is not a better boat to do this kind of expedition, where we need safety, stability, power and enough room to fit the entire equipment plus 3-4 crew in total 650 kg on each rigid inflatable boat called RIB.

We had a lovely cruise and wonderful stops in Borba and Nova Olinda do Norte where we enjoyed the kindliness of riverside communities and the quiet but awesome power of the river itself.

Amazon River

And finally after 73 days, 6700 Km over 8 Rivers we reached our dream the mighty Amazon River.
The Amazon River has at his average discharge more water than the next seven largest rivers combined, and is twice the area of India and the basin spans eight countries.

It’s not over yet

Apal, Stefano, Steen, Werner, Paolo and me, we just flipped out of joy. We jumped in the water, singing and hugging each other, then after such a long voyage the corks just popped out. After a couple of gulps of a fine Whisky which Steen was hiding for this special occasion, we still had to find a place to sleep and in a good hour the sun went down.

A fisherman told us that there is a little village with a Posada up the river. I got a bit nervous then some huge clouds started to build up and darkness was setting in and still no village!

Before driving in to a massive storm and darkness I stopped the boats to consult with my crew if we just go for shelter and maybe have to sleep in the bush, or to carry on with the hope to find this village and a safe place. Their comment was come on Andy, we are with you and we will make it whatever it takes.

It got dark and the storm hit with full force, but on the horizon we could see some lights and a fisherman just appeared in front of me also trying to make the safe harbour. Wet and cold we arrived in Marina do Pato and the village-folks came to greet us, took care of our boats and served us a cold beer. Proud of my crew and happy that we made it, because this last hour could have easily turned into a disaster. I just had to sit down to control my feelings.
The next day we had to do the last stretch of 145 Km to Manaus.


Manaus, is the capital city of the state of Amazonas in the North Region of Brazil. It is situated near the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões. With a population of more than two million, it is the most populous city of both the Brazilian state of Amazonas and the Amazon rainforest.
 To see the point where the black waters of the Rio Negro meeting the Rio Solimoes brown waters, flowing together without mixing for nine kilometres was just amazing.
 We understood after navigating along the shoreline which was packed with boats why the Port of Manaus is such an important commercial centre for ocean-going vessels traveling the Amazon. In fact, it is the main transport hub for the entire upper Amazon.

We made it

Exhausted, marked, proud and somehow not able to express and understand that we did this unbelievable first ever voyage with inflatable boats.

Over 20 adventurers, people from seven different countries joined this wonderful journey. You gave your time, trust and power to make this expedition a success. It was a great pleasure to see so many of you there!

Manaus, yes we arrived: 6890 km, on 8 rivers: Paraná, Paraguay, Guaporé, Mamoré, Aripunã, Madeira, Amazonas, Rio Negro. Four countries; Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, in 72 days. We used 8500 L of fuel and 170 L of two-stroke oil.

Happy and proud for this great voyage. Thanks for the great support from you all. We are all healthy and still have not yet time to realize what we really experienced.
 And yes, it was a successful venture, despite many challenges and difficulties. Hopefully you enjoyed both the expedition part and the almost untouched nature, and that you used the opportunity to unplug from your daily working life. I am sure that the friendship with most of you will continue in the future.

I would like to give special thanks to the sponsors and supporters. AB Inflatables, Hard Craft, Orca, Enrico Pallazzo, Instituto Sustentar, Alfredo, the Cucchiani family, Stefano Coruzzi, Apal Singh and Kanika, Klaus Kranewitter and the great partnership with Jussara and Douglas with their NGO’s, and so many more which helped us along the voyage. 
For all the things you did, both big and small, I want to thank you.

But an expedition is never finished until it is finished. But this story later.

STAGE 4 Gujara Mirim – Manaus 1484Km. everage 106km per day

26.Oct.18 Gujara Mirim-Nova Mamore

27.Oct.18 Nova Mamore-Porto Jirau Dams, Boat transport

28.Oct.18 Boats transport Dams 125km to Porto Velho
29.Oct.18 Porto Velho,Water and prepare Boats

30.Oct.18 Porto Velho
Porto Velho – Humaita 240km

31.Oct.18 Porto Velho-Humaita

01.Nov.18 Porto Velho-Humaita
Humaita – Manicore 365km

02.Nov.18 Humaita-lago Santo Antonio
03.Nov.18 lago Santo Antonio-Lago Jauari

04.Nov.18 Lago Jauari-Manicore

05.Nov.18 Manicore-Novo Aripunana

a bit a of a recce if posible, ca 200km

08.Nov.18 Novo Aripunana-Borba
09.Nov.18 Borba-Nova Olinda do Norte

10.Nov.18 Nova Olindo do Norte- Rio Amazon

11.Nov.18 Amazon- Manaus

12.Nov.18 Manaus, Celebration

Gujara Mirim – Manaus 1484Km.

Note from the Expedition leader

“I have done it. Please don’t take the success away from me. It would be too cruel. I want to remember the 72-day journey on South Americas mighty rivers, the hardship, the people the beauty and the buzzing mosquitoes, the heat and the spray. 
I hope I choose the right path. Success and a home with my family.”

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