The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID BEDDOWS

Lost for weeks in the depths of the Ama­zon jun­gle with rot­ting feet and a body that re­fused to carry on, young Is­raeli back­packer Yossi Ghins­berg did the un­think­able: he cov­ered his body in fire ants and let them sting him into ac­tion.

With his chance of sur­vival hov­er­ing at close to zero, it was a move that would ul­ti­mately save the young ad­ven­turer’s life, the ex­cru­ci­at­ing stings of the tiny in­sects giv­ing him the in­jec­tion of pain and adren­a­line nec­es­sary to keep go­ing as he looked for a way out of a wilder­ness de­ter­mined to kill him.

“I ac­tu­ally went and shook a tree and show­ered my­self with them be­cause my feet couldn’t carry me any­more and I needed to stand,” he says.

“I show­ered my­self with the fire ants and, on the waves of pain, I man­aged to get up and keep on go­ing.”

It was 1981 and Ghins­berg, who had just fin­ished his manda­tory mil­i­tary ser­vice, had trav­elled to Bo­livia in search of a hid­den tribe he be­lieved was liv­ing deep within the Ama­zon.

With three oth­ers he met in the city of La Paz, Ghins­berg set off on the long and ar­du­ous trek into the un­known.

Two weeks into the trip, and no closer to find­ing the elu­sive tribe, ten­sions among the four spilt over and forced the group to split.

Ghins­berg and Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher Mark Gale built a makeshift raft and sailed down the Beni River as the other two con­tin­ued on foot. They would never be seen again.

Not long into the river ride, dis­as­ter struck as the pair hit rag­ing rapids that tore their wooden boat apart.

Ghins­berg was thrown into the vi­o­lent waters and af­ter mirac­u­lously end­ing up on dry land, found him­self alone and with­out food or the faintest idea of how to get back to civil­i­sa­tion.

He trekked through the jun­gle for weeks, his feet slowly torn apart from the con­stant damp­ness as the wet sea­son took hold.

“Both my feet were much more than in­fected – I had no feet. They were two lumps,” he says. “There was no skin left on them.

“They were wet all the time and the muddy socks rubbed the skin off and then it got a fun­gal in­fec­tion. It was re­ally very ugly.”

In­fec­tion and ill­ness al­most killed him and with very lit­tle in the way of food he be­came just skin and bones.

Each day he had to fend off deadly snakes, spi­ders and jaguars, and if it wasn’t the an­i­mals try­ing to kill him, it was the earth try­ing to swal­low him.

“There was one mo­ment where I al­most at­tempted to kill my­self. I was drown­ing in a swamp and I just couldn’t get out of it,” he says.

“I had a medicine kit and there were 50 or 60 pills and I took them out and al­most swal­lowed them.

“The thing is I thought about my mother at that mo­ment and thought that I can’t do it af­ter 19 days.

“If I had done it on the first or sec­ond day, OK, but af­ter 19 days of en­durance ... so I just threw the pills away and kept swim­ming in thick mud un­til I fi­nally got out.”

Ghins­berg’s har­row­ing story, and the in­cred­i­ble de­ter­mi­na­tion of Gale to find and res­cue his friend de­spite of­fi­cials say­ing he was dead, is told in the up­com­ing movie, Jun­gle, star­ring Harry Pot­ter star Daniel Rad­cliffe as the Is­raeli back­packer and di­rected by Aus­tralian Greg McLean ( Wolf Creek).

Ghins­berg says the Bri­tish ac­tor was the per­fect choice to play him in the movie and was happy with the way he was por­trayed in the movie.

“(Rad­cliffe) did a great job. I feel that it’s a priv­i­lege to be played by one of the most iconic fig­ures in con­tem­po­rary times, prob­a­bly one of the most recog­nis­able faces in the world,” he says. “He stud­ied me; lis­tened to the mu­sic I was lis­ten­ing to at the time, read the books I was read­ing at the time and worked with a dic­tion coach to speak like an Is­raeli.”

The movie brings to life some of the hor­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences Ghins­berg en­dured in the jun­gle and he says things were so bad, the film­mak­ers didn’t need to over drama­tise for ef­fect.

“When you make the movie you have to edit out rather than look for ex­tra drama – there was no need to drama­tise the story. There was enough drama there,” he said.

Jun­gle is out in ma­jor cinemas across the coun­try today


Daniel Rad­cliffe stars in the new thriller Jun­gle, a re­mark­able tale of sur­vival di­rected by Aussie Greg McLean.

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