Slovenian marathon swimmer Martin Strel became the first person to swim the entire length of the Amazon River Saturday when he arrived in Belem, Brazil. Strel was immediately taken to the hospital in critical condition but is now recovering in a local hotel.
Strel, 52, swam 5,265 kilometers (3,272 miles) in 66 days.
Over the course of the swim Strel battled delirium, exhaustion, and infected sores on his legs. He also conquered fears of attacks by crocodiles, piranha, and bull sharks.
“Physically, I have sores and pains in my whole body,” Strel wrote in his diary posted on the BBC News web site. “I still have problems with my head, it feels like a bomb about to explode, I do not have a temperature but if feels like there is a big pressure – like fire in my head – I need to cool down a little bit. ”
Strel completing his swim then being evacuated to the hospital. Photos courtesy of AmazonSwim.com, the chronicle of Strel’s swim
Strel said he dealt with flesh-eating piranha by applying gasoline and cream to his wetsuit and not swimming near river banks.
“My team also [threw] blood or meat on the other side of the boat to distract them,” he said.
Strel averaged 52 miles a day during his swim. He previously swam the lengths of the Yangtze (4,003km in 2004), Mississippi (3,797km in 2001) and Danube (3,004km in 2000)
When asked if he would swim the Nile next, he said “The Nile is not as mighty as the Amazon.”
Strel aimed to raise awareness on the state of rivers and the Amazon rainforest.
“I also want to promote a message of clean rivers, clean water and friendship, because these rivers and water have to stay clean, otherwise the world will collapse,” Strel wrote. “The Amazon river is still very clean, local people use it as a natural resource and I think the Amazon should stay clean forever… One of my missions is to protect the rainforest.”