Jacki Hill-Murphy talks Victorian explorers, intrepid adventures and finding teammates
The fierce wind and rain blew Mary’s full long skirt into a maelstrom of wet fabric that thrashed like a flag around her legs and attempted to uproot her from the volcano-edge. She held on tightly to her ferret-brown hat and tried to steady herself with her bulky umbrella, the storm crashed around her ears as she stared into the murky black crater beneath her feet, straining her eyes to define its perimeter while only feet from death. She savoured the drama of that moment but not the achievement; that would have to wait.
Mary Kingsley was entirely alone climbing the 4,095 m Mount Cameroon in 1894. She pioneered a new route up its south side and had set off with a disparate group of local men acting as porters, who thought she would give up very quickly and they could scurry off and spend the wages she gave them. Not one of them made it to the top with her and Mary, a true Victorian explorer, plucky and inquisitive, looked out over East Africa and the Atlantic Ocean, alone.
Adventures are there to be shared but Mary would have been hard-pressed to have found another English lady to join her on her travels in West Africa, particularly as it was described as ‘white-man’s grave’. Luckily, modern medicine has eased the way and made loosing ourselves from our cultural moorings possible to do safely and now there is never shortage of fellow adventurers, willing to travel into the unknown and off the beaten track.
Finding suitable fellow travellers has become very important to me when organising my expeditions to recreate the journeys of the first female explorers. I need people who will make a difference, who will function out of their comfort zone and will enjoy unexpected cultural encounters.
I have used Explorers Connect, established by the well-travelled adventurer Belinda Kirk, many times to successfully find team mates. It seems to attract men and women, of all ages from across the world who are looking for alternatives to ticking a destination off a list. They want to travel with a purpose, a challenge and are willing to go that extra mile to find it.
Explorers Connect reaches so many people, it amazes me! When Ken Hames and I organised the first British-led expedition to hunt for the lost Inca Gold in the Llanganates region of the Andes in Ecuador we were inundated with responses from across the globe. The group we took were diverse, rugged and adventurous and this is the same for the group I will be leaving this month, to travel the length of the Amazon (again, we found them through Explorers Connect).
The expedition to travel the length of the Amazon River will be studying the changes on the river since the first European explorers ventured along its waters in the 18th century. The team are experts in their field and ready for the shocks and pleasures along the way; it will be a journey of a lifetime and members of the team will be reporting back to Explorers Connect with news and progress. I personally would to thank Belinda and her team for their continued support and for creating such a vibrant community of adventurous people.