On Fresh Water Cove, Western Australia
Making shoes in his camp at the Okavango Delta
In the jungle eating a cooked reptile, Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand
Drinking water collected from plants in his jungle camp, Chiang Dao, Northern- Thailand
Ed Stafford, an English explorer and the first human to ever walk the entire Amazon river, chose to be standed for 10 days in several remote locations. Here, he tells us why he did so and what’s most important in life:
I’ve always loved adventure TV. But I thought, wouldn’t it be more engaging for the viewer if whatever the person was doing was for real? You know, if you couldn’t light a fire then you’d have to suffer the consequences. You’d have to eat raw food and be cold at night. If you couldn’t catch any food, you’d go hungry. If you couldn’t build a shelter, you’d get wet. I genuinely thought it would be more exciting to move adventure TV away towards something real.
I’m an ex-military captain in the British Army, and after that I’ve been doing real expeditions, sometimes with scientists and biologists, and sometimes with TV people. They’ve been real expeditions and I always thought if I came to TV I’d like it to be real. If you go to remote places, exciting things happen, and you don’t need a script.
The cameras I use are quite robust. I go in there with two handheld Canon cameras. They’re called 105s and relatively small. I’ve got one of them on either of my hands and I’ve the other placed a little further away for a wide angle. I also have a couple of GoPro point-of-view cameras, one for my head and one to move around. They are quite robust but the times when I was in Borneo, it was so humid I had to be careful with condensation and not letting the lenses steam up.
There isn’t a cameraman, there isn’t a soundman, and there isn’t a director. I have to do all of that myself.
When I was in the military, I had this dream of going and walking the length of the Amazon. When I did it, it was an amazing thing to achieve and accomplish. But I was left with the sensation of, you know, how much did I rely on my walking partner, Cho, the Peruvian guy that walked it with me for two years? How much did I learn? How much can I do on my own? Marooned is very much a reflection of where I was at that point in my life.
I’ve always been really scared of living a life whereby I just go to the office, do a normal job, sit in front of a computer and then go home. I’ve always found that one of the most terrifying prospects of how to spend my life. I know that within jobs like that, lots of people can have challenges and excitement. But I have to say for me the idea of being trapped behind a desk has always been terrifying and getting into that whole commuter sort of rut.
If you wrap yourself in cotton wool, it’s very easy to stay the same. You stop growing, evolving, and getting wiser. But I think the more you put your neck on the line and the more you put yourself through situations which are difficult, the more wiser and the more rounded as a person you become. So I don’t think I’d ever want to stop experiencing these sorts of challenges. I think they’re really necessary just in terms of growing, in terms of really living your life.
It’s not about self-torture. It’s about experiencing life without the modern-day crutches that we all walk on. What I’ve been doing is replicating a scenario where I can live as humans were genetically programmed to do. Is eating all natural food, sleeping under the stars and washing in crystal clear rivers really torture? I don’t think so. Is it hard? Yes – but the rewards of coping with just your bare hands make it all worthwhile.
If there was just one person with me, it would have made it so much easier. Just somebody to have a laugh with, somebody to have a joke with, and someone to share all the responsibilities with. Even to have a bit of a grumble or a moan with. But there’s something about the intensity of just one person on their own. Every single thought is internalised. There’s no one to share any of the experience with apart from the camera, so I think it does shift everything massively.
We’re always on our phones or always – Facebook. But when all that is stripped away, when there’s no fridge to go to, to get any food out of, and there are no taps to turn on for water, suddenly you’ve not only got no one to rely on but you’ve got none of the physical needs that you would normally have in everyday society as well. The sort of enormity of that total responsibility when you’re completely on your own is quite overwhelming.
What do I do to keep myself going? Well, I have a beautiful fiancée who lives in London. She’s got two kids and we have a lovely family life. When I get lonely I think, like anybody, you end up thinking about the people that you love.
In life, I fear growing old alone. Exploring can attract people with a selfish streak who can end up on their own. I’m determined that won’t be me and so my family now comes first.
The scariest bit was being confronted by a herd of African elephants whilst standing on the dusty ground, bare foot and in a little grass skirt. It was breathtaking but I felt very exposed and small.
Fearless people die quicker than people with fear. They are only fearless probably because they are messed up and don’t have a proper handle on the value of life. No adventure or world record is worth dying for.
Have some adventure in your life – sure. But don’t let chasing an adrenaline rush become your reason for living. Who is the real man – the one who summits an un-climbed mountain leaving the family to fend for themselves or the one who stays at home to read bedtime stories to the kids? I guess it’s about balance. If you have no responsibility in your life – who are you and how meaningful is your life really?
Marooned will be airing on the Discovery Channel (StarHub Ch 422) at 8pm on October 28