Solo Amazon Source to Sea Navigation Gets into Second Gear

Words & Photos by Davey du Plessis, solo adventurer

Abroad Travelling
Adventure Racing

In July 2012, adventurer Davey du Plessis embarked on his second cause-driven adventure. A solo, unaided navigation from source to sea of the mighty and iconic Amazon River. The 6,500 km journey has been broken into three stages comprising an initial hike to the 5,597 m Mount Mismi, noted as the source of the Amazon; followed by an estimated 800 km cycle through the Peruvian Andes Mountains and finalised by a 5,700 km paddle down the Amazon River to the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Brazil.



The driving force behind the adventure stems from Davey's desire to challenge his dietary choice as a vegan, including promoting an individual empowerment towards combating many of the adversities faced by wildlife, the environment and essentially humans.


The initial hiking stage was a solo navigation of the mountain peak that forms the Amazon River's source. During the four day, 60km hike, Davey faced complete isolation, high altitude and below freezing conditions, with evening temperatures reaching below -10 Celsius. However, the tough conditions were sidelined by the beauty of the majestic glacier-covered peak.


Due to having no guides or maps, Davey initially summited the wrong side of the mountain. The false summit frustrated and drained much of his energy, yet determined to summit the correct peak, he re-summited two hours later on the correct side. Davey explained that reaching the top of the first, and false, attempt required him to literally climb up on his hands and knees, and was one of the lowest moments he has ever experienced. After the true summiting, he descended the mountain the following day, having had very little to eat and poor sleep in the below freezing conditions. Once he reached Tuti, the small town near the Mount Mismi Peak, Davey collected his bicycle and was off on the second 800 km stage through the Andes Mountains, where he encountered altitudes in excess of 3,400 m, peaking at 4,600 m, including bitterly cold conditions.


Having had the experience of cycling from Egypt to South Africa in 2011, at an average of 100 km a day, Davey expected to complete the cycle within 10 days. However, poor road conditions, constant climbing and descending decreased his average mileage into a frustratingly slow 40 km per day. "I did not take the mountainous ascents and descents, nor the road conditions, into account when planning my cycling stage," Davey said. The difficult terrain, coupled with freezing conditions and high altitude added to the slow going. The cycling stage amounted to a three-week slow and tough cycle. Davey commented on his motivation for the cycling, "The beautiful snow capped mountain ridges and knowing that this was the worst of the environmental conditions I would experience before reaching the warmer jungle were the biggest motivational factors." He added that the Peruvians encountered whilst cycling were really hospitable, making a foreigner with not much of a Spanish vocabulary feel welcome. He highly recommends and encourages fellow South Africans to get touring on their bicycles and visit South America, his only mention is to choose a better and more mapped route.



With the completion of the cycling stage, Davey is now heading into the final third and longest stage, his paddle down the Amazon River. Due to the logistical problems of having to organise equipment for the various stages, Davey opted for a foldable kayak. "The paddle will be a test for the equipment and myself. I have never used a foldable kayak, nor have I done any serious paddling," he said. The estimated 5,700 km down the Amazon will see Davey passing through tropical jungle terrain from Peru into Brazil, including several cut-off and isolated indigenous parts where people are still living and thriving in the Amazon Jungle, and 'Shining Path' territory, an active communist guerrilla party. The, still in operation, militant faction is noted primarily for the trafficking of drugs through several South American countries. Davey is aware of the issue and believes that his presence will be unsuspected in the jungle terrain during his paddling.


Davey has also teamed up with the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation Organisation in his navigation of the Amazon.


As he will be passing through remote and isolated areas, Davey will be collecting research data and footage regarding environment and conservation for the organisation. He expects the full navigation to take an estimated four to five months. Public records state that Davey is the youngest and second solo adventurer to attempt such a journey. When asked for his reason behind the Amazon navigation, he said, "If someone with no paddling experience and eating only fruit and vegetables can navigate their way down one of the greatest rivers on Earth, I believe that this feat can inspire all individuals to believe in their own capabilities, no matter their sphere of life."



To view photos, video clips, information on Davey's progress visit and links to related social media and content from the adventure, visit