Explorer Benedict Allen shares “the real story” of his expedition in Papua New Guinea at King’s Lynn Festival

Explorer Benedict Allen. Picture: Antony Kelly

Explorer Benedict Allen. Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007

After battling malaria, dengue fever and surviving a tribal war, explorer Benedict Allen finally found his way to King's Lynn.

In a talk, hosted by King's Lynn Festival and the Royal Geographical Society, Mr Allen revealed his adventures in Papua New Guinea which eventually led to his so-called disappearance.

He firstly apologised to a filled auditorium for being a no-show when the talk was originally scheduled in November, but he said he was thinking about us all the same.

'I was worrying and thought, oh no, there is a lecture in King's Lynn, what am I going to do?'

But what he did made for some good story-telling during the two-hour show in St George's Guildhall.


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Mr Allen returned to the tropical island 35 years after his first expedition to help BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner, his adventurous companion, fulfil his dreams of seeing birds of paradise.

In an energetic display filled with scratchy old photographs, Mr Allen had taken the audience on a journey through the past and present.

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He had arrived into New Guinea feeling bewildered by the memories of making contact with the various tribes decades before.

This included going through a month-long initiation ceremony, 'to make man as strong as a crocodile', which involved getting beaten with bamboo blades whilst dancing around a spirit house singing Old McDonald, which the locals thought was the British national anthem.

It was this feeling of returning to somewhere he once belonged that spurred Mr Allen to venture on a solo expedition to find the Yaifo tribe again.

The Yaifo live in the remote highlands almost completely secluded from the outside world, and Mr Allen wanted to honour their way of life by not taking a GPS device or phone with him. He did not want to be rescued, and said: 'I wanted to let the locals know my life is not more valuable then theirs.'

But a nearby war meant Mr Allen couldn't escape and in a weakened state from contracting diseases he couldn't find the strength to get out on his own.

He was eventually rescued after going 'missing' for five days.

It is one of few instances Mr Allen has shared this story since returning to the UK and the audience got a special preview of what could become his next TV series.

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