Followers of #ArmaSkinNews will be aware that a team of adventurers worked its way for over 4200 miles across South America from an Ecuadorian tributary river into the Amazon River and finally to the east coast of Brazil where the Amazon enters the South Atlantic Ocean.

ArmaSkin were happily included in the adventure, helping to protect the feet of some of the team members, on this epic journey.

The Expedition Team was ably led by Ms Jacki Hill-Murphy an experienced adventuress. We are excited to provide here some insights from Jacki from the adventure and some general advice for other adventuresses.

The Amazon is a lifeline to thousands of people that is sometimes dirty and polluted and other times beautiful, serene and abundant with wildlife. During the many hours where it was only us and the River it was a total pleasure. I had succeeded in my ambition of many years and had travelled down the Pastaza in Peru and the Amazon. It had taken so long to make the journey possible. The journey was fascinating. We travelled an unknown and very undocumented part of the Peruvian Amazon.

An extract from Jacki’s blog highlights the underlying danger that the Expedition faced.

“One night we camped late at a friendly tribal village, we had been in the canoe all day and the respite was badly needed. “These are good people,” our guide reassured us, but he had seen the warning signs too late that the village had an ominous feel and was partly abandoned. Palm roofs were caving-in and rustic gates swung open neglected; there were no chickens pecking at the dirt. The village had been populated by a hostile tribe, the Achuar, who had chased out the friendly Quechua whose home it was since our guide had last visited. We reluctantly set up our tents in a tin-roofed school house, the concrete floor was thick with dust and the tiny school desks and chairs were heaped drunkenly at one end. Then the rain began to fall, in Biblical proportions, hammering onto the hard roof like the fast beat of a jungle drum and making the four badly fitting doors swing and bang while the lightning flashes cast dark shadows around our tents, we heard footsteps too, leaving us disconcerted and worried.”

As Team Leader I was mindful that the Expedition could at any time face personal risk and reminded them accordingly.

We were incredibly lucky with the communities that we were able to visit and be welcomed by, but this was because I had hired a highly experienced guide who had been doing field work for twenty years for a university professor who studies the tribes in the Pastaza region. Without Carlos I am not exaggerating when I say we could all be dead now.

The adventure was full of surprises. At one point in Sucres Peru, Team mate David Parker, was fishing with local children. I was amazed at how fast the piranha were caught, I’d say one a minute! They were fat with red bellies and their mouths were open revealing rows of sharp, jagged teeth.

There were so many different groups of people we met along the way. (You’ll need to wait for the book). I would have loved spending more time with the Kichwa tribe in Sarayaku and gaining a better understanding of their struggle to maintain their traditional lifestyle as hunter-gatherers. Their culture is so wonderfully rich in culture and humanity it breaks my heart to think their own Government in Ecuador has sold their land off to an oil company which means their peaceful resistance to the destruction of their forests is ongoing.

With regard to keeping the Team on the same page, I took a pragmatic approach - these five intelligent and professional people were not receiving any funding and had given up jobs and used their savings to be there, therefore they had to make this their own journey and not only mine. I was the instigator and had come up with the concept and offered them to join my dream - but everyone has their own dream too so we discussed any decision making together and I hope they were all happy with the way the trip progressed.

Each team member contributed to the overall experience, for example, I was impressed with Mauro’s very fast command of Spanish. On the lighter side as well as providing leadership I also provided some comic relief. When I fell in the Amazon River, stood up and again fell in, the team fell about laughing.

We specifically asked Jacki a few questions about leading such an adventure:

What is the most important thing you learnt about leading such an adventure?

Never get angry, be tolerant and show strength. There were times I felt I was dying in the heat and impatient with the team taking their time when we had to move on. I think I have gathered more wisdom with age too!

What piece of advice would you give to other female adventuresses contemplating leading an expedition of this type?

Pick your team carefully. Individuals who have got issues going on in their lives often don’t perform so well out of their comfort zone. If a potential team member says they have experience in harsh conditions check it’s true. Make sure they can laugh at themselves and have a good sense of humour - you are going to be around each other a lot. Ensure they will take advice and act on it in dangerous situations and are good team players, the best ones are those that muck in without being asked.

Did the gender of you as a leader or of your team members have any significant impact during your journey?

Not at all.

Whether you feel like you, as an unsupported individual, could have completed the journey in Isabella’s time?

Well I can swim and understand how to survive from plants in the forest and so I think I possibly could. Isabella's team made some very bad decisions which I wouldn’t have made. So, yes, I could, but would I be allowed to carry my 21st century tent and water bottle?

When will your book come out?

Give me at least a year!

That means, ArmaSkin readers, that you should make a diary note for your 2017 Christmas shopping list to see if Jacki’s book has been published. Keep in touch with Jacki's website for details 

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