The 7 rivers, 7 continents project is an endeavour to complete source to sea paddling descents of the longest river on each continent; a combined total distance of 35,000km. In 2008 Mark completed his descent of the Amazon River in South America, in 2012 the Missouri-Mississippi in North America and in 2014, the Volga in Russia, Europe’s longest river.
Perhaps more importantly though, and of particular interest to Adventure Uncovered, is the purpose underpinning Mark’s remarkable project. He says, ‘The chief aim (of 7 rivers, 7 continents project) is to bring these river stories to life. From the fisherman, the hunter, the family and the power company worker, to the farmer, the trees, the predator and the prey. All have inspiring and thoughtful stories to reveal.’
Mark, we’re delighted to be talking to you about the 7 rivers, 7 continents project. You’ve completed three rivers so far, can you share with us a couple of the ‘inspiring and thoughtful’ stories?
I try to make clear in my social media, interviews and articles that paddling these rivers is about so much more than just getting from source to sea. While that is a huge element of my expeditions it is not the sole purpose. I am a big fan of difficult and demanding journeys and indeed these river descents very often are, but I have tired of swashbuckling tales for the most part. For me, now, it is the people I interact with on my descents which interest me the most.
“For me, now, it is the people I interact with on my descents which interest me the most.”
Of the three rivers I have successfully descended as part of the 7 Rivers project so far, all have revealed stories that may be so simple but are incredibly powerful. It was during the latter stages of our Amazon River descent that it clicked to me that these journeys could be so much more than a shot of adrenalin alone. This revelation came about by the never ending hospitality that we had received on our journey from those people who call the river home.
Most all of them had a very basic standard of living as compared to what we knew. Life was not easy, indeed it was quite often a hard struggle. Watching a 10 year old girl climb a tall, rickety and eminently dangerously constructed water tower to ensure the family’s water supply remains uninterrupted is proof of that. No matter, they invited us into their homes and we got a glimpse of their day to day existence. Finding clean water, cooking, building, family life, recreation, medical care, education. All of these things achieved in a different manner to our own experience but in the end just the same. A family whose father awoke before sunrise each morning to ferry the children across the river and onto a long walk through the jungle to school. Same aspirations, same laughter, same tears. These little stories shared, I hope, provoke thought about our own and everyone’s place on this planet.