(Correne Coetzer) In 2008 Mark Kalch and Nathan Welch completed a paddle down the Amazon from the source at Mt Mismi to where it meets the Atlantic. The adventure didn’t stop at the Amazon as this was an inspiration for Mark to plan paddling the longest river on each continent from source to sea.
With the Amazon done, the next challenge is the Missouri-Mississippi River, which starts in June.
Mark will be paddling the Missouri-Mississippi River alone, mostly because he can, he said to ExplorersWeb in a heads up. “The river is a lot more straightforward than the Amazon and others due to the absence of any meaningful whitewater and higher population density and development.” He added he will never underestimate a river.
More than fun and adventure
“I am so amped for the 7 rivers project as a whole,” he told ExWeb, “You know, when we made our source to sea descent of the Amazon River it was just one big adventure. I don't think any of us had thought about it much more deeply than that.”
He says he is still of the firm belief that you don't need lofty goals in order to undertake an expedition. “For fun or adventure? This is enough. However, I have learned, on the Amazon and more recently on my walk across Iran that there is so much more on offer and so many more ways to interact with the expedition.”
”Get them excited”
Mark will be working with International Rivers for the 7 rivers project as a whole and American Rivers for his upcoming US paddle.
He doesn't do expeditions to raise money for charity, says Mark. “For me there is a huge disconnect between paddling a river, walking to the poles or climbing a mountain and the vast majority of charities chosen by people to raise money for on their journeys.”
He explains, “To me it is akin to asking a doctor, lawyer, footballer etc. if they are doing their job for a charity? It does not make sense! I am talking professional expeditions in this case, not adventures undertaken for the express purpose of raising money for charity such as Kilimanjaro summits and treks to Everest base camp. That is different altogether.”
“That said my support for International Rivers and American Rivers is a perfect fit.”
Mark added, “Expeditions have an uncanny ability to capture people's imaginations.”
“Get them excited. It is harder to get people excited about water security and scarcity, issues with hydropower, fish stocks, sanitation etc. By getting people looking in on my expeditions which actually take place and allow me to travel through the very regions where these organizations work then I hope I can get people excited about these much more serious issues as well.”
The game plan
Mark will be arriving in the US (from the UK) at the end of May and hope to start from the river's source 1 week later. He estimates he can reach the Gulf of Mexico in 4-5 months.
“It is really difficult to know,” Mark emphasized. “The Amazon took us 153 days paddling and rowing a whitewater boat. We were held up a lot on the upper Amazon trying to navigate the whitewater and again on the lower Amazon for a good few weeks in total with illness, repairs, map sourcing etc.”
In the US he will be paddling a 17 foot P & H Scorpio touring kayak. “A fast boat for sure. But we will see. I do not want to make it a race. That is not what the project is about.”
Mark will be paddling the Missouri-Mississippi River alone. “Mostly, because I can. The river is a lot more straightforward than the Amazon and others due to the absence of any meaningful whitewater and higher population density and development.”
“I will never underestimate a river,” he says. “Any 4000-mile river with fast moving water and huge lakes can turn around and make you pay in an instant. Piotr Chmielinski who was the first to make a source to sea descent of the Amazon always liked to remind us, "the river always wins!"
Alone or not alone
Two rivers that Mark would not wish to attempt alone are The Nile and Yangtze. He explains why not, “The isolation and nature of the rivers make this, in my opinion slightly foolhardy and does not bode well for a successful descent.”
“Others like the Volga and Murray-Darling I would like to paddle alone.”
Not a 7 Summits project
Comparing a 7 longest rivers on the 7 continents project with a 7 highest mountains on the 7 continents, Mark says, “Although to the ear it sounds similar, the 7 rivers project is not something that can be knocked off in less than a year like the 7 Summits.”
“If only! There are no outfitters, fixed ropes, porters and reliable intel to help navigate these rivers.”
“If I were to complete all 7 rivers in the next 10 years I will be pretty happy. If it takes longer than so be it.”
“A lot of preparation goes into taking on these huge rivers,” Mark assured ExplorersWeb.
The 7 rivers, 7 continents project is an endeavor to complete source to sea paddling descents of the longest river on each continent. A combined total distance of 35,000 km (22,000 miles).
- Amazon River (South America) – 6937 km (4300 miles) – completed 2007/2008
- Nile River (Africa) – 6650 km (4132 miles)
- Yangtze River (Asia) – 6300 km (3916 miles)
- Missouri – Mississippi River (North America) – 6275 km (3912 miles)
- Volga River (Europe) – 3645 km (2266 miles)
- Murray-Darling River (Australia) – 3370 km (2904 miles)
- Onyx River (Antarctica) – 40 km (25 miles)
Expedition Amazonas: It took 153 days: but just after midnight February 21st 2008, Mark Kalch and Nathan Welch of Expedition Amazonas became the fourth ever team to successfully navigate the entire length of the mighty Amazon River from its ultimate source at Mt Mismi to where it meets the Atlantic.
It was a big undertaking: Mark Kalch, Philip Swart, Scott Martin, Nathan Welch, Holly Tett, and Adrian Ward, were to trek to the Amazon’s source high in the Andes of Peru on what would be a five month, almost 7,000km trek on foot and by raft. The team faced tough terrain on their way to the mouth of the Amazon on the coast of Brazil, including highly demanding whitewater sections.
Mark Kalch biography
Mark’s expedition (and other expeditions with RSS feeds) can be followed in the links streams at the Pythom app and at ExplorersWeb
Visit our new website