Further tales from extreme adventurer Stafford (Walking the Amazon, 2011), European Adventurer of the Year in 2011.
The author’s latest is the stuff of nightmares: “No food, no equipment, no knife and not even any clothes.” Alone, on a remote island in the South Pacific. After his two-and-a-half-year ramble the length of the Amazon River, among traffickers, defensive locals and terrorists, what would be next? Greater duration was pointless, but as for in extremis, well, a couple months isolated on a South Pacific island, with absolutely no provisions—except for the video cameras that would record his days for the Discovery Channel—ought to do the trick. Stafford is a fit, adventure- and battle-tested, fairly normal and sociable man, so it came as little surprise that the isolation got to him. His story of those 60 days is raw and acrid, with all the pungency caught on tape clearly adding immediacy to the emotional wrench of the narrative. His physical travails were hardly negligible—the lack of fresh water drove his blood pressure through the roof (as did almost any stressful thing); “coconut tasted like whale blubber, snails like gritty balls of phlegm”; “I woke up to sharp stomach cramps and explosive diarrhea on the beach”—yet it was his mind that was pushed to the most painful places. He was edgy, frustrated, whiny and looking for someone to blame. Then came the little triumphs: building a fire, catching rainwater, finding a tin can, caramelizing coconut, hunting down a goat, and learning to focus and be serene in the face of those things he was not able to change. Ultimately, he notes why the island is uninhabited: “NO BLOODY FRESH WATER. For certain parts of the year the island produces less water than can sustain one male adult.”
To be sure, some of Stafford’s mental baggage popped open during his latest crazy journey, but his chronicle is, on the whole, entertaining.