Yossi Ghinsberg‘s survival story is nothing short of miraculous. When he was just 21 years old, he spent three long weeks dodging death in the Amazon rainforest—alone and unprepared. His book on the ordeal sold millions and serves as the source material for a film, Jungle, being released next week. Meanwhile, Ghinsberg continues to draw on the lessons he learned from his ordeal to show organizations what they too must do to “survive” in the corporate jungle through epic storytelling and transformational insights.
As for the movie (starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ghinsberg), excitement continues to build leading into next week. The Times ran a fascinating story that charts Ghinsberg’s adventure-gone-wrong and brings his thoughts to the fore on the cusp of the film’s release:
It was night in the Bolivian Amazon, and on a mountain ridge Yossi Ghinsberg, a 22-year-old Israeli backpacker, lost and alone for five days so far, injured and famished, was lying on the ground, wrapped in a mosquito net, unable to sleep. Around him snakes slithered and the jungle echoed with the noises of birds and buzzing insects, of a monkey screaming as some wild animal devoured it.
Suddenly, Ghinsberg heard branches snapping and the thud of something approaching. Leaves rustled on the ground. Heart pounding wildly, he put his head out of the net and shone his torch around him. Nothing was there. Still petrified, he began banging a tin can with a spoon in the hope of scaring predators away. But the noises grew nearer. He stuck out his head again and found himself face to face with a jaguar.
“He was a large cat, covered with black spots, and when I shone the flashlight in his face he just froze and looked at me, his tail wagging back and forth,” Ghinsberg recalls. “I was trembling and panicking, but I grabbed my cigarette lighter and a can of insect repellent and put the flame to the spray. It started an enormous blaze. I was completely blinded, I could feel the hairs on my hand scorch, but I held it there for a few minutes until I ran out of spray and lighter fluid. When I put it down, the jaguar had left, but I was screaming and crying, shocked to my core.”
The jaguar encounter was only one of a nonstop series of almost biblical tribulations that Ghinsberg endured, after a 1981 trip with two other backpackers and a guide into one of the most hostile environments on earth went disastrously wrong.
Separated from the group (two of whom never returned – of which more later), Ghinsberg, a naive young man fresh from compulsory military service, twice survived near-drowning when he was swept over a waterfall and then later slipped walking along a riverbed; twice he nearly sank to his death in quicksand.
He fell off a cliff, had patches of skin devoured by termites, woke to find his body covered in leeches, battled through ranges of thorns and spent nights drenched and freezing, with giant trees crashing all around him as the area witnessed its worst storms in a decade, then the next day clung to trees to avoid being swept away by flood-water torrents rushing through the jungle.
Read the full story here.