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Leading article: Pure madness

It should have been a woman, of course. If she had undertaken the task of following on foot the course of the world's greatest, and most daunting river, she could have been called a true "Amazon".

As it is, it has been a man who has achieved the feat, perhaps because only a man would be mad enough to do it. It has taken Ed Stafford, 34, almost two-and-a-half years, and dangers, bites and attacks too many to enumerate, to complete the task. But then he's a former army captain, which may help explain the mission. Start at Point A and proceed to Point Z, no matter what the obstacles.

And of course he had to have a local companion, Peruvian forestry worker, Gadiel "Cho" Sanchez Rivera, to guide and help him through. All good 19th-century adventure stories have a loyal native in the picture, as British pluck triumphs over mortal danger from man, beast and insect, never mind disease and hunger.

"It proves you can do anything – even if people say you cannot," said the exhausted Englishman as he finished his journey on a Brazilian beach. So that's why he did it. If only his parents had told him from the beginning that "of course you can do it, it'll be a doddle," he might never have tried.