Last year’s expedition in Papua New Guinea ended in him falling ill, being rescued by the newspaper and facing accusations of imperialism. What drives him to seek out yet more adventures?
Benedict Allen arrives dressed like an explorer: all in green, multi-pocketed jacket, sturdy trousers, a bag that could carry accessories in the Amazon. It is a somewhat anachronistic get-up for a meeting in central London, at the Savoy hotel, but very useful given that we want a picture of him in the gardens next to the Embankment, which, for our purposes, will double as a jungle.
He takes the artifice like a trouper, pushing aside the ferns as if he was yomping to a lost city in Amazonia, but proves less adept once we are seated in the hotel, having difficulty making clear just how large a pot of tea he wants and turning away the nuts and olives because he doesn’t realise they are complimentary. “Sorry, I’m not your usual class of guest,” he says to the bemused waitress. After spending so much of his life in wildernesses, he admits he finds it difficult adapting to this more refined jungle, but it may also be a natural trait: tall, gangly and prone to gesticulating wildly to express himself, he was not made for sipping tea in hotel bars. He was made for a life of adventure.