Swimmer Completes Trip Down the Amazon Slovenian Martin Strel finished swimming the length of the Amazon River Sunday, a feat that took more than 60 days. He avoided piranha and anaconda, but not the furious storms that roil the giant waterway.
NPR logo

Swimmer Completes Trip Down the Amazon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9469965/9469966" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Swimmer Completes Trip Down the Amazon

Swimmer Completes Trip Down the Amazon

Swimmer Completes Trip Down the Amazon

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9469965/9469966" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Slovenian Martin Strel finished swimming the length of the Amazon River Sunday, a feat that took more than 60 days. He avoided piranha and anaconda, but not the furious storms that roil the giant waterway.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

From Rio de Janeiro now, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on the swim that's poised to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

JULIE MCCARTHY: It was an epic of endurance.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

MCCARTHY: Unidentified Man #2: Speaking foreign language)

MCCARTHY: The Slovenian swimmer says he was lucky to have escaped encounters with piranha, anaconda and the dreaded toothpick fish that swims into body cavities to suck blood. But he was not spared the storms of the Amazon, and he powered through water that churned like whirlpools.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MCCARTHY: But navigator Matthew Mohlke says one landing was distinctly unwelcoming. Mohlke says the team had fashioned a mask out of a pillowcase for Martin to shield his badly sunburned face while swimming. He donned a sombrero to protect his head.

MATTHEW MOHLKE: And the moment Martin pulls up in his pillowcase mask and a sombrero, everyone onshore scatters - the men, women and children running all over the place frantically. A group of men came and they were going to defend the village, and apparently there was a long-lost legend that sometime in the future a white demon would come from the mountains as a sign of the apocalypse. And they took Martin's arrival into the village literally.

MCCARTHY: With the 22-member crew battling illness, Martin himself contracted a larvae infection. Matthew Mohlke says seven machine gun-toting men protected the boat from pirates.

MOHLKE: It's not just a fairy tale. There's pirates out here, and what they do is they wait until you get into the narrows, maybe seven or eight canoes will come along, storm you with guns and take over.

MCCARTHY: Cramps, high blood pressure and chronic insomnia plagued the 52-year old swimmer, pain he knew from swimming the Danube, the Mississippi and the Yangtze rivers. But his son, Borut, said that tidal burrs near the mouth of the Amazon made the swim different, creating competing currents so strong that Martin was moving backwards.

BORUT STREL: And that made him crazy in his head because he's not able to continue during the day. And swimming in the Amazon at night is crazy, crazy dangerous.

MCCARTHY: But at night, the tides were with him and Borut says his father, obsessed with finishing, plunged into the black waters.

STREL: He's been taking risks for the last 10 years, swimming this crazy river. And he's still alive. I'd simply say that nature and rivers accepted him, and he became part of the nature.

MCCARTHY: Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.