Celebrity Chat

Ed Stafford

The first man to walk the Amazon on foot, we meet the British adventurer and TV star who’s travelled the world – but loves coming home to the Leicestershire hills

Travelling opens my mind; I never want to stop learning about the fascinating and diverse planet we live on. But it has also taught me that there’s no place like home. The rolling hills of Leicestershire gives me a sense of relaxation and ‘home’ that could never be replicated abroad.

My favourite place in Britain is Bardsey Island. It lies off the top of the Llyn Peninsula and no-one lives there. To get there you have to take an old fishing boat, and you have just a couple of hours to explore the bracken-covered, rain-drenched island before they take you home. We holidayed in Aberdaron for years as a family and Bardsey Island was a very special day of each holiday. I wish I had time to travel to more of the UK.

I came out of the army as a captain and struggled to get a job in the City during a financial recession. As a stop-gap I took a job leading a gap year expedition to the Belizean jungle for 18 to 24 year olds. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Walking the length of the Amazon for two-and-a-half years was an utterly all-absorbing experience that took all my energy, wit, initiative and determination to achieve.

Although I look back on it fondly, it was a damp and mosquito-bitten prison sentence for most of the 860 days. I got held up at gun point by drugs traffickers, held up at arrow point by indigenous tribes and even arrested for suspected murder by one tribe and locked up in prison. Everyone thought it was going to be snakes and jaguars that would be my problem – but it was always people who posed the biggest dangers.

After two years of looking after my rucksack in the Amazon, it was lost by British Airways coming into Heathrow. I wouldn’t really have cared, but loads of mates had come to see me arrive and they were waiting ages outside with their little Union Flags.

I kind of feel experienced enough to ride out little dramas like this now. After you’ve been bombed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, losing your luggage fades into the background…

Ed is a Guinness World Record holder, having become the first man to walk the Amazon – an achievement that also won him the European Adventurer of the Year award

Chris Beardshaw

“ I got held up at gun point by drugs traffickers, held up at arrow point by indigenous tribes and even arrested for suspected murder by one tribe and locked up in prison.

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