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  • Open sores cover his body.

  • Worms have embedded themselves in his pus-filled flesh.

  • His feet are covered in blisters.

  • On the verge of death, Yossi Ghinsberg knows he must stimulate his body to continue pushing

  • forward.

  • He spots a nest of fire ants in the leaves of a tree, and moving underneath it, begins

  • to shake it violently.

  • The furious ants rain down on him, angrily biting and chewing at his flesh.

  • It's torture- but the bites also release bursts of steroids from his body's reserves, energizing

  • him to continue moving... to not lay down and die.

  • Things will soon get worse.

  • The son of Holocaust survivors, Yossi Ghinsberg enlisted with the Israeli Navy at the age

  • of 19 to fulfill his mandatory military service in his home country of Israel.

  • An adventurer at heart, Ghinsberg dreamed of sailing the seven seas, but it wouldn't

  • be until he completed his service in 1981 that he'd be free to travel past Israel's

  • immediate territorial waters.

  • Ghinsberg was inspired by Papillon, written by Henri Charriere.

  • In this autobiographical work, the novel details a purported escape from the French penal colony

  • of Bagne de Cayenne, a brutal prison off the coast of French Guiana also known as Devil's

  • Island.

  • Charrier details his escape from this deadly prison and the subsequent adventures abroad

  • that ensued, setting fire to Ghinsberg's imagination.

  • He too wanted dangerous adventures and the opportunity to visit uncontacted indigenous

  • tribes in the deepest jungles of the world.

  • Ghinsberg made up his mind to save up enough money to embark on a legendary adventure to

  • find Charrier himself, as well as the many uncontacted tribes he had detailed in his

  • book.

  • This would take him into the deepest, darkest parts of the Amazon, but this only heightened

  • Ghinsberg's anticipation.

  • He worked every job that he could, saving every shekel he earned in anticipation of

  • his grand adventure.

  • His first job was working construction in Norway, after which he flew to Alaska to join

  • the dangerous fishing fleets of the legendary Bering Sea.

  • After saving up a good chunk of money, Ghinsberg drove from Alaska to the lower 48, stopping

  • to visit the city of sin itself, Las Vegas.

  • In just one very ill-advised night of gambling, Ghinsberg lost almost everything he had earned,

  • putting his dreams of amazon travel in serious jeopardy.

  • Ghinsberg got turned onto a job in New York however, working for a friend's uncle.

  • From New York, he traveled to Africa for his new job, shipping old music records to be

  • re-sold in African markets.

  • While in Africa, Ghinsberg slept inside of the container trucks he drove in order to

  • save money and rebuild his savings.

  • Unfortunately, Ghinsberg discovered that just as he had saved enough money to embark on

  • his adventure, Charrier had already died.

  • Further dampening his spirits was the realization that the tribes he had longed to travel to

  • and live amongst had all already been officially contacted and brought into the fold of the

  • modern world.

  • Ghinsberg's mind was made up though.

  • If his icon was dead and the tribes he longed to meet were already contacted, then he'd

  • just have to travel deeper into the green inferno and discover new tribes.

  • Ghinsberg soon arrived in Venezuela, but was initially discouraged by the discovery that

  • government efforts across South America had brought previous uncontacted tribes into contact

  • with the modern world.

  • His disillusion growing by the day, he hitchhiked his way down to Columbia, where he boarded

  • a ferry ride that would change his life forever.

  • The captain of Ghinsberg's ferry decided to abruptly turn around after being told that

  • a passenger had just arrived and missed the boat.

  • Had that ferry captain not turned around to pick up this straggler, Ghinsberg's life may

  • have perhaps been more peaceful than it would become.

  • It certainly would have saved him a trip into the heart of hell itself.

  • On the dock was a Swiss school teacher, Marcus Stamm.

  • As the two chatted on their boat ride, they quickly struck up a friendship.

  • Stamm was like Ghinsberg, also an adventurous spirit, and enjoying the final few weeks of

  • his year-long break from his job teaching in Switzerland.

  • With no real destination in mind, Ghinsberg was easily talked into crossing over to Bolivia,

  • and the duo headed up to La Paz, the capital.

  • There, the two new friends were approached by an Austrian traveler, Karl Ruprechter.

  • At first, Ghinsberg and Stamm were suspicious of this character, but then Rupechter began

  • weaving together a story they couldn't resist.

  • He explained that he was a geologist in search of a secret gold hot spot deep in the amazon.

  • The location was completely uncharted and had been revealed to him by sources familiar

  • with the still uncontacted indigenous tribe who lived there- the Taramonas people.

  • A secret treasure?

  • Uncharted territory?

  • Uncontacted indigenous people?

  • Ghinsberg was sold, hook line and sinker, begging Ruprechter to allow him and Stamm

  • to join his expedition.

  • Ruprechter quickly agreed.

  • The two could not have known that Ruprecther was not in fact a geologist, but rather a

  • wanted criminal and con man fleeing from the Austrian authorities.

  • The group made the acquaintance of an American, Kevin Gale, who was traveling through South

  • Africa on a quest to document the people and animals.

  • An avid photographer, it didn't take much convincing for Ruprechter to talk Gale into

  • joining them.

  • Once more the promise of grand adventure and sights no white man had seen before proved

  • too powerful a lure to resist.

  • The four traveled to the Tuichi River and then followed the river until arriving at

  • a tribal village at the very edge of the known Amazon.

  • There they stocked up on supplies and spoke to the locals about their trip.

  • The villagers were quick to dissuade the foursome from pushing further into the jungle, citing

  • the many dangers- including the Taramonas people themselves.

  • Nothing would stop the group's quest for riches and adventure though, and the four plunged

  • forth into the thick Amazon jungle.

  • It would be a trip they would quickly regret.

  • The towering trees quickly grow so thickly together that they block out enough sun to

  • leave the jungle below in a state of perpetual twilight.

  • Vines and undergrowth choke the group's progress, forcing them to hack their way forward with

  • machetes.

  • Thick clouds of insects and poisonous snakes dog their every step.

  • The treacherous jungle has seriously slowed their progress, and the supplies they'd brought

  • with them begin to run dangerously low.

  • Within days, they run out completely.

  • The group resorts to eating whatever they can forage.

  • In the heart of the amazon however, there's surprisingly little readily available food-

  • unless you have the skill and knowledge to find it.

  • The four don't, but they do get lucky and encounter monkeys occasionally.

  • Ruprecht decides that they'll eat meat that day, and raises his shotgun to his shoulder,

  • drawing a bead on a monkey.

  • Stamm objects, not wishing to kill any animals unless they absolutely have to.

  • The group quickly turns on him- this is what they must do for survival.

  • Undaunted, Ruprecht once more raises the shotgun and squeezes the trigger.

  • The monkey falls, fatally injured and bleeding profusely.

  • Stamm rushes to the monkey, and to the shock of everyone, pulls out his first aid kit in

  • an attempt to save the monkey's life.

  • Ruprecht violently shoves him aside, scolding him for wasting their medical supplies on

  • their dinner.

  • He then takes the monkey and throws it on Ghinsberg's back, tying the hands around his

  • neck.

  • The group pushes forward, moving until nightfall, as Ghinsberg's shirt becomes covered in the

  • monkey's blood.

  • At camp that night, Ruprecht lights a fire and then roasts the monkey, burning off the

  • fur.

  • Next is the meat, which he cuts up into equal parts so the group can share.

  • Stamm however refuses to eat the monkey, and the group turn on him, calling him weak and

  • useless.

  • Eventually, Stamm accepts the meat and tries to eat it, but ends up vomiting it back up.

  • Later, Ghinsberg would come to regret his treatment of Stamm.

  • The Swiss man was one of the most kindhearted he had ever met.

  • While traveling together, they boarded a bus and watched as a thief stole the expensive

  • camera a birdwatching tourist was carrying.

  • The tourist, having come all the way to South America to photograph the continent's exotic

  • birds, broke down into tears.

  • Stamm approached the stranger and offered him his own camera, free of charge, so that

  • he may complete his journey.

  • Stamm should have never come here, Ghinsberg thinks.

  • The group begins to alienate Stamm as they push further and further into the jungle.

  • Though he would later regret his treatment of him, now Ghinsberg begins to greatly resent

  • the soft-hearted Swiss man, and the resentment spreads amongst Ruprecht and Gale.

  • As the four push deeper and deeper into the jungle, Stamm grows weaker, refusing to eat

  • the monkeys that the other three occasionally hunt and kill.

  • By now though, the group is starting to have serious suspicions about Ruprecht.

  • As they travel, they ask Ruprecht about his life, training, and the location of the gold

  • that they are seeking.

  • Ruprecht's stories begin to contradict each other, and the three's suspicions grow by

  • the day.

  • With mistrust growing within the foursome, and resentment towards both Ruprecht and Stamm,

  • the group stops to take stock of their situation.

  • Their supplies are almost completely out, and they've been largely subsiding on the

  • occasional fruits and other things they can hunt or scavenge.

  • Stamm has been injured and is physically lagging behind the group on their daily pushes into

  • the jungle.

  • They decide that it's best to turn around and head back to the village they had departed

  • from.

  • It would be a long, difficult journey, but better than continuing with nearly no supplies

  • and an injured Stamm.

  • Once back in the village, the group recuperates their strength and restocks their provisions.

  • Seeking to salvage the expedition, Ruprecht pitches the group on a new plan- instead of

  • trudging through the thick jungle again, they could simply ride rafts down the river to

  • a small gold quarry that Ruprecht knew about.

  • From there, they could once more simply raft down to Rurrenabaque, a small town where they

  • could then get transportation back to La Paz.

  • The idea of rafting, instead of walking, into the Amazon is very appealing to the group.

  • Ruprecht told them he was a river guide and Gale was an expert rafter, so their confidence

  • was high.

  • With the help of villagers, they built their raft and pushed off, floating once more into

  • the heart of the green inferno.

  • Soon the group arrived at the confluence of two rivers, and Ruprecht suddenly called for

  • them to pull the raft over to shore.

  • He warned the group of the San Pedro Canyon, a series of very dangerous rapids, boulders,

  • and waterfalls that would be extremely hazardous to try and cross by raft.

  • Also, he told the group that he couldn't swim- and refused to continue down the river.

  • They had to continue on foot, he said.

  • The group now was furious with Ruprecht.

  • His contradictory stories, and this new betrayal, was too much for the group to bear.

  • Also, as the group continued deeper and deeper into the jungle on their raft, Ruprecht had

  • grown increasingly more authoritarian, taking leadership of the group.

  • This was too much, and the group decided to officially split.

  • Gale and Ghinsberg decided that they would take their chances on the river, confident

  • of Gale's rafting expertise allowing them to navigate the treacherous waters ahead.

  • It would also make their journey to Rurrenabaque much quicker than to try and continue on foot.

  • Ruprecht, furious at the expedition's cancellation, decided he would simply hike back upriver

  • and return to civilization.

  • It was best, in everyone's opinion, that Stamm go with him, and with a tearful hug, the Swiss

  • man bid Gale and Ghinsberg goodbye.

  • The group vowed to meet again just before Christmas in La Paz.

  • Stamm and Ruprecht however, would never be seen again, even after an extensive search

  • and rescue effort.

  • Whether they were killed by jungle animals, or hostile natives, or simply succumbed to

  • disease and infection, nobody knows.

  • To this day, nobody also knows what Ruprecht's real objectives were- and why he lied to the

  • group about the dangerous rapids and his inability to swim.

  • Clearly, Rupecht had an alternative goal in mind, and one he hoped to rope the other three

  • into once they were in a position to no longer refuse.

  • What the wanted con man's goals may have been will forever remain a mystery.

  • Gale and Ghinsberg quickly meet with the dangerous rapids that they had been warned about.

  • Gale expertly leads the two over the turbulent waters, but then, suddenly, their raft smashes

  • into a large boulder, throwing Gale off and plunging him into the tempestuous waters.

  • Ghinsberg frantically screams for his friend, but soon he has his own problems as the raft

  • is pushed over the boulder and violently ripped downstream.

  • Clinging on for dear life, Ghinsberg stays with the raft as it suddenly plunges out over

  • a waterfall.

  • The raft smashes into pieces on the rocks below, but miraculously Ghinsberg has avoided

  • those same rocks and plunged into a deep pool.

  • He's lost everything though- his supplies, camping gear, and even his compass.

  • Desperate to find Gale, he tries to climb the cliff back upriver, spending the entire

  • night doing so.

  • The effort however is futile, and Ghinsberg is forced to turn back.

  • Now his only hope is to follow the river and continue with the original plan to reach civilization.

  • This time however he'll have to do it through the thick Amazon jungle, and he'll have to

  • do it with only the shirt on his back.

  • Ghinsberg has to travel over a hundred miles to reach safety, and every inch of it through

  • jungle infested with jaguars, wild boars, snakes, and venomous insects.

  • With no camping gear, Ghinsberg has to find what comfort he can on the jungle floor, which

  • is crawling with giant cockroaches and other insects with painful bites and stings.

  • Sleep rarely comes for more than a few minutes at a time, and when the sun rises the temperature

  • soars to nearly 100 degrees.

  • In the thick, humid jungle, breathing feels almost like drowning, and Ghinsberg is essentially

  • traveling through a sauna.

  • The constant humidity and heat wreaks havoc on Ghinsberg's body.

  • Fungus and other infections quickly take hold.

  • Every scratch, cut, and scrape, is quick to become infected.

  • Open blisters form on his battered feet, as he struggles to push through the thick jungle

  • and closer to civilization.

  • The blisters leak pus, and at night the worms feed on him.

  • Ghinsberg has lost thirty pounds in two weeks.

  • He's covered in insect bites and delirious from lack of food.

  • However, Ghinsberg is not alone.

  • A young native woman has been his traveling companion for days now.

  • She's unaffected by the tortures of the thick jungle, and doesn't speak any english.

  • Like him, she appears to be lost, and even though she never says a word to him, Ghinsberg

  • feels that he must protect her and ensure she gets to safety.

  • This feeds his resolve, keeping him from giving up even as his body is failing him and beginning

  • to break down.

  • If he can't save himself, then he must save this young girl.

  • On day 17 of being lost in the jungle, Ghinsberg suddenly hears the sound of an airplane.

  • He crashes through the jungle, desperately searching for an opening in the canopy, somewhere