My name is Martin Strel. I’m from a very small but beautiful country called Slovenia. It’s a small country, a tiny country, but over the last 6 years, I, for one, have set myself and achieved, some incredibly large goals:
- To be the first and only person to swim the Danube river – 1877 miles (3021 km).
- The first and only person to swim the Mississippi river – 2360 miles (3798 km).
- The first and only person to swim the Yangtze river in China – 2500 miles (4023 km).
And I have come at last to what looks like the impossible challenge of being the first and only person to swim the Amazon river.
From close to its source in Atalaya, Peru, to where it spills out of the Amazon Basin into the Atlantic, at Belem, Brazil. Some 3375 miles (5430 km).
No one has ever done this… I know that I’m going against almost insurmountable odds, but I have my reasons.
Some of which I’m going to tell you about.
The Amazon river flows mainly through the rainforests of Peru and Brazil, some of the most beautiful, most diverse and potentially, the most impacting (in a positive way) ecosystem on our planet. There are hundreds of tribes living in that rainforest, some of whom have never seen the light of the modern day world. And there are thousands of species of animals and medicinal plants, many of them, scientists believe, hold the keys to solving some of our greatest illnesses. Natural compounds that could hold a cure for cancer, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.
The Amazon rainforest, and it’s river, is also home to some of the most poisonous, dangerous and ferocious animals that we know of. And a lot more that we don’t know of. I’ve said many times to myself and others that I’m going to swim that river or die trying… And I mean that quite literally. I could die in that river, but that is not my intention. My intention is to swim through the rainforest in order to prove something.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that changed our world.
I, too, have a dream. I, too, have a vision, that I hope will change our world. My dream is to swim the Amazon to prove to the world that nothing… nothing, is impossible.
If I can swim that river, then the Palestinians and the Israeli’s can find a way to live together in peace.
If I can swim that river, then the Muslims, Christians, and Hindus, in India and Africa and the Middle East, can all find a way to live together in peace.
If I can swim that river, then the Western Nations and the Nations of Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan, can find a way to live together in peace.
If I can swim that river, then the Chinese government can allow the sovereign of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, to return to his throne in his own country, and they can all live together in peace.
If I can swim that river, then the warring tribes in north and central Africa, who are squabbling over resources, land, and water, while their people starve and die, can find a way to live together in peace.
If I can swim that river, then the 8 most powerful and richest countries in the world can find a way to forgive the debts of the 15 poorest countries in the world.
This is the goal I have set myself and this is the challenge that I have put out there for the world’s leaders, and the religious leaders, the politicians, and the militia men, to rise up to. If I can achieve my goal, they can achieve this.
This is what I will have in mind in the darkest days of that swim, in the most arduous hours, that in some way I am helping to protect, not only myself from the hazards of the river, but the rainforest from the hazards of the rapid deforestation, exploitation, and pollution, that is threatening thousands of indigenous natives, the rainforest ecosystem, and our environment as a whole.
As you can see, it’s not just the rainforest but our whole world that needs to be protected. So that people can live together in peace without the fear of famine, and violence, and war. For all these reasons, I am going to swim that river.
I used to talk in terms of conquering rivers. But that’s not what happens at all. I haven’t conquered any rivers, what I’ve been conquering is myself. My own limitations, that are mostly in my head. This is, I believe, the only way forward for all of us. Each one of us has to find a way to conquer our pride, our vanity and greed, our corruption and striving for power. Find a way to live in peace and dignity with ourselves, and then we can live in peace and dignity with each other.
I’ve received so much good will and best wishes from people all over the world. And I wish to return those wishes and that goodwill with my own. Because this is not just about me surviving in that river, but of us, surviving on this tiny little blue droplet of water, suspended in the boundless void of space.
This place that we call our world, our home, the planet Earth.
Martin’s endeavor will begin on Thursday, February 1st, when he jumps into the Amazon river at Atalaya, Peru, for his first 85 kilometer stage to Taurapa. His plan is to swim 77.5 km (48 miles) on average per day, without a singe resting day.
After 70 days, on April 11h, he is expected to arrive at the Amazon delta in Belém, Brazil.
Good luck, amigo!
Journal Peru will keep you informed about Martin’s progress, his overall state of health, and when he reaches his final destination: the Atlantic Ocean.