Instead, they take born survivors like Ed Stafford, whose 860 day solo trek of the Amazon proved his capacity for endurance and left him craving more adventure, then maroon him on a remote South Pacific island, naked. Stafford, while more than capable, is brutally honest, and what’s fascinating about his account of his sixty days alone on Olorua is how vulnerable and scared he admits to being. Soon he’s practising meditation techniques taught to him by Aboriginal Australian friends, collecting rainwater in clamshells, eating raw snails, and feeling like ‘an ant or a chicken’. It’s not until he succeeds in lighting a fire – on day thirteen – that he starts to get a handle on things, and his joy at brewing his first cup of pine-needle tea is palpable.
Isolation, Stafford learns, is a struggle all of its own, forcing him to address his ‘negative behavioural patterns’. With that learned, he can not merely survive but thrive: building a shelter (despite the spacious cave he found on his first day); setting traps for goats; learning to fish; all of it carefully timetabled, with lunch hours set aside. Still, his greatest challenge lies ahead: coping with his return to the world. An emotionally raw, never dull narrative.
NAKED AND MAROONED by Ed Stafford, Virgin Books, £8.99 (paperback)
This book review was published in the April 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine