The Amazon: Source to Sea expedition has set a modern era record for expeditions by traveling 4,000+ miles from one of the Amazon’s many tributaries in Ecuador to the Atlantic Ocean.
Led by explorer and author Jacki Hill-Murphy, the expedition team safely completed the expedition with a plethora of new information, wonderful experiences, and insights despite many setbacks and potential expedition-ending dangerous situations. Art “Karts” Huseonica has returned to Sun City with lots of memorable moments with teammates and indigenous peoples, an increased awareness of the demands on the body in extreme heat and humidity, and a greater appreciation for what he has at home.
After meeting the expedition team in Quito, Ecuador with leader Jacki Hill-Murphy, the team traveled east to the indigenous village of Canelos where they met their dugout canoe and two boatmen, Juan Ingaro Gualinga and Gerardo Gualinga. Their route was identical to that of Isabel Godin des Odonais’ in the 1700’s. Isabel was the only one to complete the harrowing journey, and until now, no one has since been successful in accomplishing such a feat.
Their first major objective was a visit to the village of Sarayaku on the Bobonaza River. Having been invited to stay for three days, the team focused on learning about life in the Amazon Rainforest, and the culture and customs of local Kichwa peoples, including the practice of shamanism. Sarayaku’s peoples, one thousand strong, are very proud of their heritage and are fighting to keep it.
evening when Achuar tribal fisherman stumbled upon the team in eastern Ecuador. They threatened to return with warriors to deal with the gringos camped on what they considered their sand bar. To avoid any conflict, the team quietly broke camp and with the cover of darkness, slipped down the river past the Achuar village.
As the team traveled the Pastaza River, stopping at small villages and towns, they met an array of interesting people and learned how they survive in the small river towns. Many of the towns made Karts think about the Wild, Wild West of the United States 200 years ago.
One key objective of the team was a visit to the secretive Cadoshi Tribal Community. After lengthy and delicate negotiations coordinated by Jacki Hill-Murphy and in-country fixers, the team was authorized a brief visit. Upon arrival, the village chief shared a bowl of the masato drink with Karts, after which his presence was accepted and the team was welcomed by the chief. Masato is made by masticating yucca and spitting it into large bowls to ferment. The village chief lectured the team about not trying to influence the villagers with their outside culture and customs. They are adamant about preserving their way of life.
When departing Peru, the team was detained for five hours by Peruvian security and immigration police because their passports were not stamped for entry. Plus, gringos in the red zone were a cause for further scrutiny and concern by local officials. Officials were able to access the team’s authorization via the Peruvian embassy, validating the team’s route, official governmental permission, and special visas.
River bandits were a constant threat in Peru and especially in Brazil. Having selected to travel on small cargo ferries for the remainder of the expedition, the team was stopped numerous times by Brazilian security police searching for river bandits and contraband. The police were very interested in the team’s GPS tracking device. After Karts briefed the senior Brazilian Security Police commander about their route and problems encountered thus far, he replied, “You should be dead.”
Kart’s findings on shamanism and sanitation will be included in a book about the expedition, which set a modern era record for expeditions to the Amazon River. Despite much being written about shamanism, it is certainly a dying cultural entity. There were a few surprise findings about sanitation that will be included in the book being written by Jacki Hill-Murphy, due to be published in 2018.
Other expedition team members included David Parker (Wales), Mauro Barbosa (Brazil), and Rebecca Webb (Australia). Joining the expedition on the second leg of the journey were Laura Withers and Bruce Couillard, both from the United States.
Here’s an article from the PHOENIX Magazine about the expedition titled River Monster: http://www.phoenixmag.com/people/river-monster.html
Karts, a 1968 graduate of Homer-Center High School in Homer City, Pennsylvania, USA, is an active member of the Sun City Prides and Sun City Hikers, lives in Sun City, Arizona, USA with his wife Karen Carlsen Huseonica of Brooklyn, New York. They have one son, Patrick, who lives in Wisconsin with his wife Amanda and son Carson.