Travel: Christina Dodwell: How I became one of the crocodile people

When explorer Christina Dodwell travels she takes several passports. One is current, the others old passports that hold valid visas. Her old-style British passports are positively bulging with stamps, and exotic ones at that.

You won't find her snapping up a last-minute package deal to Spain; she prefers a 5,000-mile stint on horseback through Southern Africa. Over the last 20 years Christina reckons she has travelled to about 80 countries. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Russia, Siberia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China are just a few of them.

She visited China in 1984 when it became possible for independent travellers to visit more easily. Apparently, every time she crossed a provincial border an official stamp was required, and she was issued with a special "alien's permit" to tuck into the back of her passport to accommodate all these stamps.

In her passport she also has a proliferation of Madagascan stamps. Since 1993, she has made eight visits. She has written a book about the place, and made a television film and a Radio 4 series about it. Most recently it is her charity project that takes her back to this very poor country. The charity funds a radio drama series that promotes welfare and family planning. Flicking through her passports, Christina casually recalls the occasions she has feared for her life. The bite from a hunting spider in Kenya which would have killed a child, and left her paralysed for 10 days. The time in New Guinea when her raft upturned in heavy rapids in a cold river. Another aquatic adventure in the South Pacific when Christina was swimming and her companion started pulling bits of bait out of a bag and scattering them around her. It seems her companion wanted to show her his friends, the sharks.

Then there was the time Christina was initiated into manhood by the New Guinea lowlanders known as the crocodile people. The initiation took the form of a skin-cutting ritual and Christina was scarred on the shoulder with the mark of the scale pattern you find on the forehead of the crocodile. The idea is that whenever you are in frightening and painful situations you know that you've probably been through worse already. It certainly seems to have done the trick in Christina's case because her experiences haven't dampened her wanderlust one little bit.

She says her passport is her most prized possession and she can't ever imagine calling a halt to her adventures.

YOUR PAPERS PLEASE

DATE OF BIRTH

1 February 1951

PLACE OF BIRTH

Nigeria

OCCUPATION

Explorer

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower