IN THE OLD DAYS, EXPLORING used to be simple. You simply went somewhere incredibly remote where no-one had ever been before. And it often took thousands of local inhabitants to get you and all your kit to these totally uninhabitable places.
Nowadays everyone has been everywhere, so explorers have to work harder. One Pole is not enough. You should do two Poles, and preferably you should do them unsupported (without a jockstrap or sports bra). Mountains have also got a lot easier. For example, Everest now has a stair-lift which will take you up to the Hillary Step, and even that has a banister. One of the few challenges left is for explorers to do a desert, Pole, or jungle completely clean-shaven.
No explorer worth their salt comes home healthy. When you meet a polar explorer, you would feel pretty short-changed if they hadn’t lost a few bits and pieces to frostbite. If you’re an explorer yourself, it’s worth remembering that blackened extremities are the high point of presentations to the Women’s Institute.
Similarly, jungle exploration is incomplete without having lost three litres of blood to an insect that made its home in your trousers. Ideally, you should also be carried out of the jungle on a bamboo stretcher suffering from some kind of malarial swamp fever. The local inhabitants have a special rate for jungle evacuation. They’ve also got very effective herbal remedies that would have you back on your feet in no time, but they don’t want to spoil the fun for you and the Women’s Institute.
To be an explorer it helps if you have a double-barrelled name. This gives the impression that you’re posh and slightly mad. After a particularly gruesome trip you can also claim that you lost one of your names in the desert, had to eat it in the jungle, etc.
Explorers need kit, the fancier the better. Victorian explorers used to rush off into the jungle in their shorts and spats, which was one of the main reasons they didn’t come rushing back out of the jungle. The modern explorer has hi-tech clothing that, whatever the outside conditions, makes them feel that they’re sitting in the local library.
Another vital accessory for the modern explorer is a rival. This is a double-barrelled bearded person who has done almost exactly the same as you and therefore needs to be continually rubbished and treated with utter contempt. If he’s just done both Poles and said hello to an Inuit, you can claim he didn’t do it totally unsupported.
Of course, there are compensations to being an explorer. There are those special moments when you stand alone at the ends of the earth, gazing for the first time at a breath-taking sight, accompanied only by an eight-man TV crew and a satellite uplink to your family, your friends and your podiatrist.
© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.