Walking through the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport, it really hit me that the expedition to the Peruvian Amazon was over and added to the collection of life experiences and memories. Seven weeks earlier, I had joined a team of expedition leaders and together we had travelled with over fifty young explorers to live an adventure under the jungle canopy. The aim? Exploring the world while exploring within ourselves. It’s called "adventure with a purpose".
There were many facets to this extraordinary adventure…
The Amazon is a magical place where one is completely connected to nature through the senses. The sound of the jungle music is ubiquitous and one cannot define how many musicians take part in this mega-orchestra of animals and insects. A thick green wall of trees and plants is the sight in every direction including overhead. The jungle smells humid, perhaps even slightly musty but when you add seventy people on an expedition with limited access to water (or the will to wash!), you certainly get a very pungent odour! Water is collected from a stream and then purified or boiled, which gives it a distinctive taste. The hot humid air of the jungle leaves the skin in a permanent state of perspiration and the various insects feasting upon it irritate and itch so the jungle touches every pore of the body. For better or for worse, the jungle arouses an astonishing sensory adventure.
Throwing seventy very diverse people together in the confinement of the jungle and observing their interactions and how they connect was yet another aspect of this adventure. Whether a paying young explorer or the Chief Leader, everyone had to collect water, prepare food, dig a latrine and use it in the same way. In the end, we all enjoyed the simple moments and pleasures of jungle life like lying in a hammock at night, listening to the cacophony made by rain drops falling onto the tarpaulin cover or sharing a jungle-baked chocolate cake in the camp and storytelling… seventy beautiful, varied stories, each peppered with different kinds of experiences which connected us by the same thread of adventure.
The adventure within came as an invitation to explore as much the wilderness of the jungle as it was to get to really know ourselves on a soul level, with a deeper understanding of life and what our role is within it, once stripped of the roles we play in the civilised world. Sitting under the damp canopy gave ample opportunity to contemplate life fully in all its rawness.
So, on many levels this was a journey for awakening the senses and freeing the spirit as it was to discover the Amazon in all its majesty.
Twenty first century explorers have come a long way from the days of Scott and Cook with modern equipment, comfort and rescue only a button away. However, the same spirit that shone through those early intrepid explorers is shared by today’s: the spirit of adventure.