Welcome to Mission Improbable

Ditchmonkey, Hugh Sawyer

Ditchmonkey sprang to fame a few years ago, when he announced to the UK media that he worked at Sothebys by day and lived in a ditch in Oxfordshire at night. Now he is about to start the biggest test of his life. And he will write about it here on Off-grid.

I have recently been trying to work out how I came to be committed to walk through the jungles and mountains of South America for up to a year. It is not the kind of plan that naturally comes to mind over the morning cornflakes. I think it started off as a surf trip with a spot of camping on the beach and things kind of escalated from there. Now the plan is walk coast to coast across South America following the line of the equator as far as is possible, living in the jungle, surviving off the land as far as possible and blogging about the experience via a solar powered lap top and satellite phone.


Quite what happened to my surf trip I don’t know. Why this attempt is being made is a question that is easier to answer, I am trying to raise money through sponsorship to help the amazing work of a charity called Rainforest Concern whose mission it is to, in their own words, “protect threatened natural habitats and the biodiversity they contain, together with the indigenous people who still depend on them for survival”.

Of course one can’t just turn up in Brazil with a rucksack and a compass and stroll off in a generally westwards direction, there is rather a large amount of planning and fund-raising to be done first. You now join me after 18 months of planning and fund-raising just as I start some serious physical training ahead of what promises to be the challenge of a life time. Whilst Mission Improbable has been fortunate in receiving donated and discounted equipment from a number of suppliers, no financial backer has been found and I recently worked out that time would be better spent earning the money rather than writing to potential backers. So currently I am working in Spain helping a friend of mine renovate an old farmhouse, I figure that hard physical work in the sun is just the way to start getting toughened up and earn a little money towards the expedition. In December I’ll be moving to the Alps to work as a chef for the ski season and the training will intensify; cross country skiing at altitude and running up and down mountains with a backpack on are on the agenda. Of course I’ll also be taking advantage of the snow and mountainous terrain to help prepare for crossing the Andes. Then in April I’ll be heading back to the UK to plan the route and work on my survival skills before heading off to Guyana for some jungle survival training.

The best way to approach any challenge is to be fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses so that a suitable approach can be developed.


Never been to the jungle
Know nothing about solar power
Not very good at navigation
Weak swimmer (rainforest is full of rivers)
Bit lazy
Don’t know much about survival


Seen the jungle on T.V.
Can light a fire in the rain
Lived in the woods in the UK for a year so used to discomfort and lack of “mod cons”
Can sleep in wet clothes and sleeping bag
Sense of humour

What could possibly go wrong?

Stay tuned to find out.

2 Responses

  1. Hugh, I am excited about your adventure. The Amazon is a wonderful place. I spent the first 18 years of my life there, living with natives, and I loved it. I trust you will too. I look forward to following your experiences.

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