First time we heard of Christian Bodegren he was on a 7000 km east-west expedition across Sahara, the world’s largest desert.
Next year he re-emerged, paddling against the current in the Orinoco flow.
Into the Amazon deltas
It was early September 2011 and Christian was headed south, "to experience the great continent before it's all gone." He launched his kayak in Tucupita, north in the Orinoco delta, and went straight for the thick.
It was a huge expedition, and many said it couldn't be done. For the distance and the style: unguided and counter current on wild rivers bloated by the massive downpours of the rainy season.
Trailblazing was not why Christian was out there. "I have never been into records," he told ExplorersWeb. "In my mind I’m always going to be the first to see, feel and get inspired in my own personal way."
His research showed it was probably doable, and a good way to see the great wilderness on the cheap.
Under the radar
He bought an old plastic kayak in Venezuela and packed it with light clothing, a hammock, some camping gear, a fortnight worth of rations, medicals, duct tape and super-glue.
In the jungle he'd camp alone, doing his best to stay under the radar in drug-trafficking parts. He found that paddling counter-current in the rainy season mostly meant being soaked and going nowhere.
He had to scare the crocodiles off when ready to camp; in Venezuela a spooked black Caiman almost flipped his kayak over.
He took frantic bucket showers on the river banks engulfed by clouds off mosquitos. Spiders scrambled to enter his hammock while armies of ants tried to colonize the boat. In Paraguay a snake got on board.
Towards the end, infections set in, then a strange fever and cold. By now, 5 months out, his stove was bust and Christian survived mostly on canned sardines and cold-soaked pasta.
On a beach in Argentina, 280 days after his start in Venezuela, the paddle was over. He'd done it, and it was a first. "That my stubbornness lasted much longer than [my detractors'] doubts just feels extra nice now," reflected the explorer.
What it was really about? "The mind is clear and free from confusion," Bodegren described his voyage, "and everything suddenly becomes very obvious."
"Only in the wilderness can I feel it, and I will miss it."
They were strong, brave and broke new frontiers. More importantly, they showed heart and sportsmanship. In 2012 six expeditions made waves at ExplorersWeb. This countdown serves to remember them.
Best of ExplorersWeb Awards 2004-2011
Best of ExplorersWeb 2012 Awards: Erden Eruc, a Thousand Miles and One Thousand More
Mazeno Ridge, Nanga Parbat the Hard Way
Best of ExplorersWeb 2012 Awards: Felix Baumgartner, the Man who Fell from Space
Best of ExplorersWeb 2012 Awards: Aleks Gamme, To the Pole and Back
The big Amazon paddle: ExWeb interview with record kayaker Christian Bodegren
Stealth Amazon paddle: done
Stealth Amazon paddle: hugest voyage yet?
Swede on massive kayak trip
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