Pushing limits

Pushing limits

Pushing limits

Is it possible to survive alone in the formidable Gran Sabana Mountains of Venezuela, the perilous Okavango Delta in Botswana, the treacherous Carpathian Mountains in Romania and the hazardous jungles of Borneo in Brunei?

The answer lies with Ed Stafford, explorer and former British army captain who shot to fame as the first person to walk the length of the Amazon river.

Marooned adventurer

This adventurer, who has often been left stranded and forced to thrive in all these locations with only his video equipment, has plenty of stories to tell us about how he overcame dangers.

You can watch his survival skills firsthand on the show Naked Castaway on Discovery Channel, which follows him as he spends 60 days on a desert island in the South Pacific with no supplies.

Living without food, water or even a knife is hard enough, but Stafford has had to battle some of the world’s toughest environments, all of which makes for a great viewing experience.

In an interview, Ed Stafford talks about his experiences along the way.

“This is a real show and it was quite hard shooting the footage myself and living it simultaneously. I was stripped of all of the things that would help me on a desert island, and I was on my own.

The concept of the show is: I head out to an island with absolutely nothing, and I have to start from scratch.”

About the experience of being marooned on an island, Stafford says, “As soon as the support boat disappeared, I found myself standing on an island feeling utterly vulnerable and stark naked. I felt totally out of my comfort zone. From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I had to engage in so much activity, just to keep myself going.”

The hardest part about staying alone was the frustration.

“I realised that I couldn’t blame anyone for my situation. It was interesting how my mind started to latch on to many thoughts. When I was extremely short of water, I found myself getting frustrated with the production crew for leaving me on an island that didn’t have more supply of water. It was interesting at that moment to stand back and say, ‘Well, hang on, Ed, this was your idea. There’s no one here really that you can blame apart from yourself.’

Unbearable isolation

According to Stafford, being isolated is the most difficult aspect of the experience.

“It’s funny how even the good things are not fun on your own. For example, if I sat and watched a beautiful sunset, I found it difficult to get the sense of enjoyment that I would have if I was appreciating it with somebody else,” he says, and adds, “It took quite a while for me to get to the stage where I could enjoy things on my own, but I missed my family very much.”

Stafford is no newcomer to the hardships that an explorer faces. His walk down the Amazon river some years ago was fraught with perilous times.

“It was much harder than I expected it to be, and it was two-and-a-half times longer than I had thought,” he explains.

“Walking the Amazon was quite an experience — it had drug traffickers, communists, terrorists, hostile indigenous tribes, electric eels, venomous snakes and jaguars. It was a  different beast.

The physical obstacles and dangers, and the mental and psychological issues that I experienced in the Amazon were moments I can never forget.

Another interesting aspect about being an explorer lies in the fact that you need mental discipline.

The whole experience of going through the process of feeling a bit angry, lashing out at people outside without actually physically lashing out at them — as I was on my own on an island and didn’t have the ability to do so — allowed me to come to a place where I had to be in charge of my moods, my situation and how things were going,” he adds.

Many life lessons are learnt on a journey, and Stafford says, “If you don’t challenge yourself, then you don’t grow. When you put yourself in situations where you have to think outside of what you normally do, you grow as a person. If you never take any risks in life, you never move forward.”

Adds Stafford, “It is important to leave your comfortable homes and explore the world. I’m not saying that you should take unnecessary risks. I’m saying that fear is your worst enemy, causing you to doubt yourself.

Treat an exploration like an exciting game and the process of surviving becomes fun. It is then that everything mutates from being an overwhelming obstacle to a thrilling challenge, and this deliberate alternative perspective is vital.”

Ed Stafford holds the Guinness Record for being the first man to walk the Amazon. He has earned the title ‘European Adventurer of the Year’ in 2011.

He intends to use his adventures to inspire adults and kids alike to get off the settee and go outside.

Stafford adds, “I have found that you should not live a life where you’re devolving control and responsibility to other people. You cannot blame others for things that happen in your life.

Live at that healthy place where you take responsibility for your own life and go about doing things in a constructive manner.

Naked Castaway will be aired at 11 pm from Monday to Wednesday, on Discovery Channel.

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