Cheating Death Along the Amazon River: Pete Casey’s 6,000-Mile Trek

Since then he’s completed hundreds of swims, crossing rivers and lakes full of caimans, and in several spots, stroking miles down tributaries to find walkable terrain.

Indigenous child with pet monkey asleep on her head and photo of man walking on dirt path

Indigenous child with pet monkey asleep on her head; Casey walking along dirt path.
Courtesy Image

“I’m lucky to be alive and to get to this stage,” Casey says from Cuzco, Peru, where he’s recuperating from Covid and dental surgery, and prepping for the final 400 miles of his quest. “If I’d really known what I was getting into, I probably wouldn’t have started.”

“Pete’s expedition stands out due to the time, isolation and perseverance it has required,” says Piotr Chmielinski, who, along with American Joe Kane, became the first to paddle the length of the Amazon in 1986. In the decades since, Chmielinski has advised almost every expedition focused on the river and has counseled Casey during his journey. “It’s definitely one of the most important undertakings anyone has done, on the Amazon or anywhere.”

Frankly, Casey is an unlikely person to have taken on such an extreme challenge. With his skinny physique, pasty English complexion, scruffy beard and tattered khaki wardrobe, he looks more disheveled bird-watcher than intrepid adventurer.

Even as a kid he nurtured a fascination with the Amazon, even if it seemed a galaxy removed from his working-class upbringing in Sussex, in the south of England. Out of high school, he dreamed of travel, but the idea of far-flung adventure was alien to his social network. Instead, he toiled as a mason and bricklayer, scraping together enough money to purchase his own home.

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