About Benedict Allen
With a reputation for surviving the harshest conditions in the face of certain death, Allen has been labelled both intrepid and inspirational. After Steve Irwin it was time we had a real rough’ n’ ready hero!
His modus operandi is to immerse himself in the indigenous lifestyle, the more far flung the better. Alone, he integrates the most hostile and remote parts of the world to better understand the local environment. With a real passion for nature, his diaries soon became instant hits, captivating and educational to boot. Books and documentaries soon followed and unlike others, this is one thrill seeker who does all his own stunts and camera work, filming his expeditions without a crew!
After organising expeditions to a volcano in Costa Rica, to the remote forests of Brunei and a glacier in Iceland in his final year at the University of East Anglia, Benedict set about planning his first solo expedition to the Amazon.
Raising funds by working in a warehouse, he was determined to cross the mouth of the Orinoco to the mouth of the Amazon. The journey was to take eight months and didn’t go totally according to plan. The intrepid explorer was forced to take some drastic measures. After being attacked by Amazon gold miners, he fled without food and finally had to eat his dog. All jolly character building stuff.
The Crocodile People
There was more character building in New Guinea where Benedict submitted to a local initiation ceremony to gain an insider’s perspective. The Niowra, also known as the “Crocodile People” scar their menfolk and beat them regularly for 6 weeks. This tradition makes the men “as strong as a crocodile”. What is it they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Mr Allen is one tough cookie.
During his Medicine Men adventure, Benedict came across the herb-gathering Mentawai of Siberut Island in Indonesia. He remembers:
The Mentawai believe that tattoos reflect the beauty of the spirits. They offered me one, but instead of my Mentawai friend Amam carrying out the operation, it was unfortunately left to his elderly father. With shaking hands, he got out what I thought was a sharp instrument but which turned out to be a blunt safety pin. Three and a half hours later, I emerged with what looked like a barcode down my leg.
The Kalapalo Indians
What would you do if you were seeking traces of a long lost explorer, said to be killed by native Indians in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil? Go straight to the lion’s den of course! While investigating the mysterious disappearance of famous 1920’s adventurer, Colonel Fawcett, Benedict managed to do what 13 other expeditions failed to do by spending time with his supposed assassins: the Kalapalo Indians.
100 people died in the quest to find Fawcett’s fate but Benedict wasn’t put off.
I really wanted to hear their side of the story, although I was a bit perturbed by the news that they had taken the last expedition hostage.
Did you know?
- Best local food surprise? Honey ants in the Gibson Desert.
- Worst meal? A sago grub in Irian Jaya. It was still alive - about the size of my little finger. It turned around in my throat and began crawling out.
- Don’t leave home without? A white Swiss army knife.
- Favourite travel luxury? Tabasco sauce.
- Desert island book? The Faber Book of Utopias
- Desert island album? The Beatles, Abbey Road
- Favourite destination so far? The Namib Desert. It’s like a little strip of paradise, an Eden.
Into the Abyss: Explorers on the Edge of Survival, Faber and Faber, Jun 2007
The Faber Book of Exploration, Faber and Faber; New edition edition, Oct 2004
Hunting the Gugu, Faber and Faber, Feb 2002