A guest post by Brian
Cutting corners on the expense of an adventure doesn’t always pay off, but cheap car hire to get there usually does. You wouldn’t choose an inferior carabineer when climbing to save money, although perhaps you’re more of a join-a-tour-and-hire-kit type of person. On the other hand, you might be a budding explorer, about to embark on the trip of a lifetime through the Amazonian jungle, throwing caution to the wind as well as health & safety – wearing just a T-shirt and shorts – carrying only a piece of muslin cloth to strain jungle rainwater through.
There are many people who purport to be great explorers on television but often seem far less than that. Bear Grylls is one of the names that pops up often, with his camera crew who catch insects for him to eat on screen. Another is Bruce Parry, who took part in the television programme Tribe.
It seems the greatest stories of modern day exploration can be found in literature. One of the heroes found there is Benedict Allen, a friendly man who now lives in Bristol with his wife and kids. He’s written several books about his experiences and the ones from early on in his career are particularly good. These show an innocence and fearlessness that is really quite impressive. Before setting out to the Amazon he met geographers with detailed maps and learnt Spanish. This was little preparation for getting fevers which saw him, although freezing cold, forcing himself into rivers to cool his body. He stayed with a tribe who admired his picture of Queen Elizabeth II and attracted the affections of one of the women of the tribe. Years later, he still stands by leaving modern technology at home and immersing yourself entirely in an alien terrain.
But he also reckons that explorers can be found in all of us. How many people do you know that haven’t visited the most easterly tip of Wales? There are places within even the smallest countries which few people visit. These are the places you can hire a car to drive to and explore. Benedict Allen may have been making tracks barely anyone had made before, but it’s a safe bet the land had been traversed many times before him by the tribes he met along the way.
Comparisons can be drawn between Benedict Allen’s journey and that of Gerald Durrell in his book My Family and Other Animals. In this we see Durrell’s family move to the island of Corfu and follow the ten year-old’s journey in his new home exploring the flora and fauna on his own, or with only a dog, much of the time. To people who had not travelled that far abroad at the time, the narrative was as deeply compelling as one about an explorer alone in the Amazon. It brought tourism to Corfu and changed it forever. Adventure travel doesn’t have to be about doing things others haven’t done before, but it’s more exciting when we see the world as if we are doing precisely that.
Brian is an explorer in his own home for the most part, as this is where he writes from. It’s a good life but one day he’ll make a break for it with only a pocket knife and see how far through Leigh Woods he can get.