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Ben Fogle: The adventurer talks frostbite, flesh-eating bugs - and an Atlantic challenge


Adam Jacques
Thursday 23 May 2013 00:11
Fogle says: 'I fear facial disfigurement I wouldn't consider myself vain but we live in an aesthetically wired society.'
Fogle says: 'I fear facial disfigurement I wouldn't consider myself vain but we live in an aesthetically wired society.'

Being on an expedition is about deprivation Whether its trekking through the jungles in Peru or hiking up Kilimanjaro, you really value the resources you have: one pair of pants, limited rations of food, limited battery power. My trips also remind me what I have left behind. Once I'm back home, I'll really value what I have, until I start to become complacent – then I'll go off around the world again.

If I had to be an animal, I'd be a tortoise I was not a high achiever at school, I was shy and not very sporty. So when I failed my exams I had this feeling of despair – until I discovered I was good at endurance. Give me a short race and I'm terrible. But as soon as it's something that takes more than a few days I can keep on going.

I've been on trips where even vegetarians start craving meat One guy who had been a vegetarian for years started longing for a bacon burger and chips. Protein, salt and starch are all things we crave and the body has a clever visual system to tell us what we need.

I don't regret my trip to Borneo for the Sarawak Tourist Board [where Fogle made a series of wildlife films promoting rainforest tourism for the Malaysian state]. I may have comes across as looking foolish since doing it [the regime has one of the world's worst records on deforestation], and it would be easy to regret it, but you could also argue that the focus it has brought to this problem [through the media reaction] was only good.

The desert is unforgiving I've recently come back from an expedition through the Empty Quarter [the Rub' al Khali desert] in Oman for a new BBC series recreating famous expeditions. It was the hardest one I've yet been on: navigating through a vast, arid climate at 47C, the heat and sand abrasion eating away at me. Thirst does the most extraordinary things to you in that sort of environment – it makes you irrational and temperamental. At times I felt like that man in the films, the one who's crawling along the desert dunes desperately searching for an oasis. Of course, this sort of deprivation is voluntary for me; for many people in the world, it isn't.

I fear facial disfigurement I wouldn't consider myself vain but we live in an aesthetically wired society. I caught Leishmaniasis, which is a flesh-eating bug, when I was in Peru a few years ago and I also got frostbite on my nose during an expedition to the South Pole. With the frostbite in particular, I remember panicking and thinking, what if I lose my nose? When those sorts of things happen, you start to think about how society accepts you on the basis of your looks.

I have a grand plan to swim the Atlantic I'm not a particularly good swimmer and I don't even like swimming, but you have to have goals in life. I'm all about proving that anything is possible with the human body, and that's what I want my legacy to be.

Having my drink spiked was bizarre It happened while I was in a pub in a remote corner of the Cotswolds. It started as a feeling of extreme wakefulness, while my eyes felt stretched wider than I'd ever felt them. Once we'd got home, I was ranting and trying to jump out of the window [Fogle was admitted to A&E following the episode]. I had five days of medical tests to prove that I wasn't out of my mind; there's still no proof it was LSD, though.

Ben Fogle, 39, is a TV presenter and adventurer who has participated in expeditions including the South Pole Race, the Atlantic Rowing Race and treks across the Omani and Sahara deserts. He is the new ambassador of Crew Clothing Co ( and patron of the charity Plastic Oceans (

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