Jungle explorer Benedict Allen: I did not need rescuing

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Media captionIn a recent documentary Benedict Allen described his experiences of living in Papua New Guinea

Explorer Benedict Allen has said he did not get lost or need rescuing from a jungle expedition in Papua New Guinea.

Speaking to his friend, the BBC’s Frank Gardner, the 57-year-old said he had been struck by malaria for the sixth time and had encountered a tribal war.

He said his worst moment was making a video will for his young family – but he insisted he had not given up and had been “gearing up” to get out.

A search was mounted after Mr Allen missed several planned flights.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he never took satellite phones or GPS with him on expeditions, but might consider doing so in the future.

His family’s distress at his apparent disappearance appeared across newspapers, TV and radio, and prompted the Daily Mail to send a helicopter into the jungle to rescue him.

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He said he had spent two days under observation at a hospital in Papua New Guinea before the doctors gave him the all clear.

Now, back in the UK, he said he was weak and “not that sharp mentally”, but was “bouncing right back”.

Sodden tablets

Mr Allen, who has filmed a number of his adventures for BBC documentaries, said his latest trip had been hampered by a massive storm which swept away a vine bridge over a river.

He had also started to feel the symptoms of malaria and his tablets had become sodden in the wet.

The final straw, he said, was when he discovered there was a war going on ahead of him and he couldn’t get out.

“I had to make my way to the nearest airstrip and try to get any local plane to come in,” he said.

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Frank Gardner/BBC

Image caption

Back in the UK, Benedict Allen says he’s weak from malaria but bouncing back

Asked if this latest venture had been part of a mid-life crisis, Mr Allen, a father-of-three, said he saw himself as a professional.

“On the very day the helicopter came, I had been gearing up to do a last walk out.

“I thought I was 80-85% likely to be successful so I hadn’t given up,” he said, in an interview from west London.

“I wasn’t expecting to be rescued.

“I never asked to be rescued but when it came – for the sake of my family – I thought ‘I’ve got to do this.'”

‘Imperialist’ accusation

Mr Allen was in Papua New Guinea to try to find the reclusive Yaifo tribe, who he first met 30 years ago.

“People have been attacking me, saying I’m an imperialist going in to see a lost tribe.

“It wasn’t like that. I simply had the privilege 30 years ago to meet these people.

“I wanted to see that they were alive and well – and they were.

“It was magnificent – a great welcome.”

Mr Allen has previously crossed the Amazon Basin on foot and in a dug-out canoe, and participated in a six-week male initiation ceremony during which crocodile marks were carved onto his body.

Who is Benedict Allen?

First solo adventure: To the Amazon at 22, during which he was shot at by two hitmen

Tough time: An initiation into manhood in Papua New Guinea. He was kept in a “crocodile nest” with 20 others and repeatedly cut with bamboo blades to leave scars that looked like crocodile scales

Low moment: Eating his own dog to survive

Travel habit: Always keeps loo paper in a back pocket. “You know how it is,” he told the Lonely Planet

Philosophy: “For me personally, exploration isn’t about conquering nature, planting flags or leaving your mark. It’s about the opposite: opening yourself up and allowing the place to leave its mark on you.”

Career: Six TV series for the BBC, author, motivational speaker

Family: Lives with family in Czech Republic

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