The biggest challenge

Tarran Kent-Hume was inspired to take on the biggest challenge that he could think of and being able to immerse himself in the South American culture for the first time seemed like an amazing opportunity and one that he wanted to commit to. 

He'd just finished competing in a Fitness and Body Building competition in Los Angeles and wanted a challenge that would take him into the wild and this trip certainly did that. 

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Tell us about your high points.... Getting to the start line was a massive effort in itself and a yearlong process, so getting to the source of the Amazon River and the beginning of the expedition was a huge high for me. Another moment came just after one of my lowest moments. We'd just entered Brazil and I'd become extremely ill. I was vomiting and had diarrhea in the middle of nowhere and with only my team mate, Olie around, I was exhausted and just wanted this to pass. Some 15 hours later we packed the kayaks and I gathered enough strength to kayak the 2 kilometers to the other side of the river where a small village was. Upon arrival, one of my worst moments become one of the best. This family invited us into their house and went off to get some medicine for me. I remember the grandmother of the family leaning over me with some medicine, she touched me on the shoulder and spoke softly to me, saying she was here for me and only wanted to see me get better. This for me was incredibly emotional as only a few hours earlier I'd been scared at how sick I had become. This for me was unconditional love, I had to leave their house for a moment as I began welling up with tears. They took us in and treated us like family, giving us dinner, we washed with them in the river and even watched their youngest son play soccer.

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And your low points... After walking the 650 Kilometres we'd got in the kayaks and set off, passing through the most dangerous section of the Amazon River, the notorious RED zone where 70% of the worlds cocaine comes from. Our guide had been shot at 2 days earlier and then disappeared without a trace leaving us on our own. After finding out he'd abandoned us, we set off again and entered the pirate zone, nicknamed this due to the amount of pirate activities, murders and robberies are common. We'd been kayaking maybe an hour when I heard some shots, then two more shots rang out as we kayaked faster and away from the oncoming boat which had now set a course to cut us off, before two more bullets fly past my head. For some reason that was it, they didn't rob us, just looked at us as they passed and started laughing.

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What cultures did you mix with along the route? We mixed with the mountain people in Peru, those people that live in the Peruvian Andes. Peasants were common sight as were many of the road crews working on building new roads and transport links. Getting a chance in the RED zone to chat with the Ashkaninka tribe was an incredible experience. One evening I remember sitting around a hut with the chief of this little village, our guide and Olie, just drinking their traditional alcoholic drink Masato. We were just laughing, eating, talking and listening to music. I polished off many bowls of this local drink Masato which really is pretty disgusting. I later found out the process for making Masato involves the women of the tribe chewing the Yucca plant root, (sort of like a parsnip) and spitting it into a huge bucket, then they added water and let it ferment for weeks at a time, allowing the bacteria in the saliva to ferment and produce this alcoholic drink. Yeah pretty disgusting I know! We also interacted with many of the river people, those that live on the river bank, they fish and wash in the river, and they live and die by the river. We'd been taken in by so many of these amazing folks.

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How did you feel crossing the finishing line? Exhausted and happy, we'd spent the final 22 hours in our kayak. at one point tied up to a mangrove tree waiting for the tide to turn in our favor again. The waves were huge 15 footers so we took a brief moment to enjoy this before getting the hell outta dodge and aimed for dry land. Some hours later after kayaking in the pitch back against the current we eventually reached the tiny town of Sao Cataneo where we slept beside a soccer pitch.

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What did you do that day? The next day we were picked up by a friend, Igor, who drove us to Belem where we slept for a few hours before he played host and took us out eating and drinking in the heart of the city. We danced until our bodies fell asleep.

Do you have any advice for our readers thinking about doing something similar? Just do it. Plan it properly, but don't put it off. For me being a little naive is part of the fun, if you wait and wait you'll never do it. You need to commit early on in the planning stage, that way there will be no backing out. Don't listen to those negative influences, use the negatives as motivators and most of all believe in yourself and enjoy the journey, it's a hell of a ride.

What's next? Well, I'm looking at a few different adventures now, I'm playing around with some ideas that will bring me to Australia next, I'll keep working on adventures until one inspires me so much that I can't shake it, and that'll be the one I'll do.