There really is a woman who lived in a tree - for sixteen years. A
leopard occasionally shared it with her, lions stalked underneath
and there were crocs in the river where she fetched her water.
There's also a man who flew clean around the world in a microlight
powered by a lawnmower engine. And a woman who single-handedly
hauled a sled to the South Pole. Then there's the guy who's best
friends are ragged-tooth sharks, someone who planted more than a
million trees and a man who hunts monsters in a forest. The
question is: why do they do these things? At least part of the
answer, I think, is that modern society has perfected the art of
having nothing happen at all. There's not anything particularly
wrong with this except, for large numbers of people, if life has
become easy it has also become vaguely unfulfilling. Civilisation
is about eliminating as many unforeseen events as possible. But, as
inviting as that seems, it leaves us hopelessly underutilised.
That's where the idea of adventure comes in. The word comes from
the Latin adventura, meaning 'what must happen.' An adventure is a
situation where the outcome is not entirely under your control. Its
outcome is up to fate. Soldiers at war, policemen patrolling tough
precincts or sailors on a tramp steamer surviving a storm aren't
having adventures. Their normal lives are unpredictable enough.
Adventurers, it seems to me, are people who could have chosen a
safer trajectory or a passion less demanding, but didn't. As a
travel writer and photographer I've had a few unpredictable moments
- charged by an enraged hippo, looking up and seeing a leopard on
the branch above staring down at potential dinner, arrested by
stoned youngsters with AK47s. Those sorts of things are bound to
happen in Africa at some time or another. But, more interestingly,
in my travels I've met some really spectacular adventurers, the
sort of people that make you look back at your life and think of
all the things you could have done. Over more than a decade of
writing about them I realised that their stories needed a more
permanent home than in a fleeting magazine article. Jacana
publisher Janet Bartlet agreed and Getaway magazine didn't mind me
ransacking its archives. So here are some of Africa's more obscure,
generally brave and decidedly colourful sons and daughters. The
sort of people who made something happen." Don Pinnock, Cape Town,
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