PADDLING THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE ESSEQUIBO RIVER was the first time I truly understood what it was like to be human. Myself and two friends decided to paddle the third-longest river in the Amazon after learning it had never been done before. None of us had much kayaking experience, which was hilariously terrifying, yet exciting. It was the most physical thing I’ve ever done. In preparation, we spent the winter training with the Wai Wai group in Guyana, the guides we paddled the river with. From spending months with this indigenous community, I learned about jungle survival and incredible life lessons – it was truly a privilege.
GROWING UP, I WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED IN ADVENTURE and inspired by nature. My grandmother has been my greatest inspiration – during the Cold War, she and a friend snuck off to Russia. Having worked as a journalist in hard news previously, life for me was often depressing. Exploring weird, wonderful and daring locations and connecting with people is what I love about travelling and has given me such an appreciation for humanity. The natural world is the most beautiful place.
I’VE NEVER FOUND BEING A WOMAN TRAVELLER AN OBSTACLE. If anything, it’s been advantageous. I’ve experienced unbelievable hospitality. In certain cultures, mothers and children would trust me more, which has been amazing for opening up conversations and learning from them. There’s no denying women are more vulnerable, but listen to your gut, approach situations with more caution when alone, and trust your instincts. NATURE CAN TEACH US SO MUCH when we listen. It’s my meditation. Walking down to the beach and paying attention to the waves gives me an opportunity to check in with myself. From living harmoniously with nature and experiencing life with communities in wild places, I’ve realised how out of touch people in modern society can be.
FOR PEOPLE IN IRELAND JUST STARTING OUT, take advantage of the fantastic walking locations scattered around the country. I did a walk from Greystones to Bray and loved it. The Wild Atlantic Way I’ve heard so much about, but haven’t done it just yet. It’s on my list. FIND AN EXERCISE YOU LIKE, or keep trying different things until you do. To be naturally healthy and happy, approach things in a child-like manner by having fun with it, otherwise you won’t do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not about being perfect straightaway and putting pressure on yourself. It’s a journey. WHEN TRAVELLING, EATING LOCALLY IS KEY. In order to stay strong and healthy on our journeys, we eat fresh fish on the river and Brazil nuts in the jungle. Firepot, a company that makes healthy dehydrated meals, provided us with slowcooked, natural, hearty meals which came in compostable bio bags and tasted delicious.
Paddling through Amazonian rivers and coming face to face with dangerous wildlife
is all in a day’s work for Pip Stewart. ELLEN BIRD chats to the adventurer who
believes life is worth living to the full.
AFTER ALMOST BEING ATTACKED BY THE JUNGLE’S MOST DANGEROUS SNAKE, the labaria, I really struggled mentally. My friend quickly killed the snake with his machete, but I had many sleepless nights after that. It forced me to confront the danger of what I was doing. I conf ided in my group that I was having a hard time processing it, and I overcame it with their support.
Pip chopping logs in the jungle, Guyana Catch Pip Stewart at the Thrive Festival at the Convention Centre Dublin March 30-31, thrivefestival.ie. Follow Pip at @Stewart_Pip