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'Adrenalin takes over, you don't think about death' From explorers and adventurers to North American eagle dancers, 20 inspirational figures will soon gather in the Welsh countryside for the Do Lectures. In the first of a series of related Western Mail articles, Ed Stafford recalls being mistaken for an organ thief, by people with guns.

Deforestation is something that affects everyone - not just Brazilians - and I wanted to give people a fun way of getting involved in the Amazon.

I didn't really do enough to prepare mentally for the expedition but I should have.

I hold my hands up that my biggest struggle has been mental. The daily grind in basic conditions when you are completely shattered for two years is testing.

Everything we did was physical and I just craved mental stimulation. I have sometimes allowed this to get to me mentally and sometimes it has affected my relationships with others I've walked with.

Before my next expedition I plan to study expedition psychology more - mastering the mind and self-coaching when things go wrong.

It's all "in the top two inches" after all so that bit needs to be paid good attention.

Keeping up morale was sometimes hard and sometimes I really struggled at low times. I am a dreamer. I suppose I must live in a bit of a fantasy world to come up with this expedition but it's the same crazy dreams that keep me excited about the end, the finish, the future and all the possibilities out there.

The important thing was to laugh at our predicaments and not take ourselves too seriously - that helps too.

I think there are so many positives that have come out of this expedition already it's hard not to be motivated.

It never crossed my mind to give up.

Napoleon Bonaparte said: "Victory belongs to the most persevering."

It would have been embarrassing to go home early.

When people ask me about the hardships and dangers faced in the expedition, I feel they have to be defined. Hardships and danger are very different things.

The hardships have been the basic conditions, the limited food and the sheer length of the walk - all with a heavy 30kg backpack.

For 28 months that is a lot of hardship. The dangers are different. The perceived dangers are the snakes or jaguars but for me the biggest threat came from people.

The Peruvian Amazon is far poorer than Brazil. Education is low and the people have all had first-hand experiences of terrorism.

When we walked through Peru, many of the communities thought I was a "Pela Cara" or "CortaCabeza" - someone who would steal babies and body organs.

This was all jungle myth, of course, but it didn't make any difference as the people believed it and were scared of me.

We were held up at gunpoint several times and at arrowpoint too. It was not a relaxing leg of the expedition.

It was actually emotionally draining trying to negotiate and prove we weren't a threat in any way.

We were certainly in danger many times but when the adrenalin's running, you don't think about death.

But we had some very tricky situations - being held on suspicion of murder being one of them.

I had a botfly living in my head but these are very minor problems.

I got leishmaniasis, a skin disfiguring disease, but a course of 20 self-administered injections soon got rid of that.

The highlight of the expedition was walking from Amatura to Tefe. That was incredible. We walked straight through the jungle and there were no paths, roads or any signs of civilisation.

We stopped to re-supply food in Jurua but the majority of the three months was living off piranhas and palm hearts, a fantastic test of stamina and we thrived in this situation.

Both Cho [Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera, my walking partner] and I lost a lot of weight but we loved being so close to nature for so long.

The Brazilians have made the last year fantastic.

I have travelled extensively all over the world and have never met a nation that is so friendly to foreigners. Cho and I will normally enter a community and have a hot meal placed in front of us in seconds.

And when we try and pay people just smile and say they don't want money. I have learned a lot from Brazilians about how to treat people from abroad. Brazilians are an example to the world.

When I was working on science research projects in Argentina, we were studying the behaviour of condors in the Andes mountains and it was very cold.

I had the urge to return to doing expeditions in a warmer climate and chanced upon the idea of walking the entire length of the Amazon River.

My original intention with the expedition had always been to raise money for five charities - Cancer Research UK, The ME Association, Project Peru, Action for Brazilian Children and Rainforest Concern - and to raise awareness for the Amazon and highlight the pertinent issues to the rest of the world.

I have learned from the expedition that if you have a dream and you are passionate about fulfilling it, ignore the people who tell you it is impossible - they are negative and small minded.

Anyone with a dream can achieve whatever they want if they work hard enough.

It's my desire to keep the expedition alive, to keep people engaged in the Amazon, its people and the issues they face, issues which affect us all.

LECTURES BY PEOPLE WHO 'DO' The Do Lectures were founded in 2008 by David and Clare Hieatt, co-founders of Welsh ethical clothing company, Howies.

The idea is "people who do things" can inspire the rest of us to do things too.

Just 60 tickets are sold for the event - which runs from September 16-19 - for pounds 1,000 each. The talks will be given away free online. The premise is that those who pay for tickets help the rest of the world to see the talks. The aim is to reach five million viewers in the next 12 months.

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Ed Stafford spent two years walking through the Amazon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 30, 2010
Words:976
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