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The man who swam the Amazon, 3,274 miles on the world’s deadliest river

September 8, 2009

I’m not sure about everyone else but I’m easily influenced by stories of other people’s adventures and before I was even half way through this book I was online, checking prices on flights to Peru and seeing when the best time of year to visit south America would be.

I was given The Man Who Swam the Amazon by Martin Strel and Matthew Mohlke as a gift from my brother two Christmases ago. It took me till now to sit down and read it. This isn’t to say the subject matter isn’t compelling, I just have to be in the right mindset to read non fiction. Usually once I start reading something like this I can’t stop, I read this book in under a week and didn’t want it to end.

The book begins with the start of the swim in Lima, Peru with a recap of the swimmer’s previous Guinness book world records and gives you a brief summary of some of the preparations for this swim and a little background about Martin Strel ultra marathon swimmer. From there it jumps right into the swim.

Matthew Mohlke does the majority of the writing as he sits along side Martin in an escort boat as he braves the dangerous waters of the Amazon from Lima, Peru to Belem, Brazil. During their adventure they encounter dangerous parasites, crocodiles, unpredictable currents and weather, and river pirates. They take along a large team including a film crew, doctors, and hired guns for protection. 51eDL3z8yOL._SS500_It’s pretty tense at times when they spot pirates in their paths or the weather takes a turn and a stubborn Martin won’t stop swimming. There are a few funny anecdotes throughout about drunken nights in cities along the Amazon or Martin wearing a mask made of a pillowcase to shield him from the blazing sun along the equator. Knowing the outcome of this expedition is obviously finishing in Belem having read it in the news, I was still on the edge of my seat through some of the hairier parts of the trip.

I would have liked to read a little more that Martin himself had written but it may have ruined a little since he is built into such a stoic character throughout the narrative. The role he takes as team leader and father figure while still being the most vulnerable of the whole crew is very interesting. It seems as if no one is ever really close to him or knows him on a personal level other than his son, Borut who’s title is expedition leader but it would appear Martin himself is the true expedition leader. When Martin does open up a little and joke around with his team it’s very endearing and even these little glimpses into his personality tell a lot about the man.

Swimming the Amazon is no small feat at any age (obviously because no one else ever has) but at fifty-two years old Martin Strel’s journey is even more spectacular. It makes you realize how much more you have in you in the next twenty years and shows that age really means nothing.

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