Can you imagine being lost deep in the Amazon forest with jaguars, dangerous snakes, wild boars, and fire ants as your only companions? One Israeli man named Yossi Ghinsberg found himself in such a situation—not for one day but a whopping 20 days. He had just finished his military training at the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.) in 1981. To explore the world a little, the then 22-year old decided to head over to South America—Bolivia, to be specific.
While hanging out in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, a stranger named Karl Ruprechter requested Yossi to join him on an exploration journey to the Amazon forest. Karl claimed that he was a geologist looking for the next gold mine. Upon deciding to go on the trip, Yossi persuaded two other friends of his that he’d met in Bolivia earlier. These were Marcus Stamm(a teacher from Switzerland) and Kevin Gale, who was an American photographer.
Together, the four men kicked off the journey into the Amazon. They passed by a village full of warm and inviting people who gave them food and other supplies for the trip. They also tried to talk the explorers out of going into the Amazon forest, claiming it abounded with danger. Needless to say, they disregarded the warnings and kept going.
The Beginning of Trouble
After packing enough food and supplies in their backpacks, the explorers headed deep into the jungle. They trekked for several days – enough to exhaust the food supplies they had carried. Thanks to the hunger and overbearing hikes, the group soon developed tensions. At one point, the boys had to kill monkeys to survive. None of them liked the idea but the will to survive pushed them.
“We were constantly hungry. We would walk long days, having eaten nothing at all. We shot at monkeys and ate them. I would have put anything in my mouth. If you’d offered me human flesh, I wouldn’t have refused to indulge. When you get that hungry, nothing is disgusting.” Yossi said.
In addition to being hungry and tired, Yossi and his friends also discovered that Karl wasn’t really a geologist as he had claimed to be. Instead, he was a treasure hunter and scammer from Australia who had no idea how to navigate the jungle, let alone swim. The boys were in real trouble.
What Happened To Marcus Stamm?
With the new discoveries, the group split into two. By this point, Marcus Stamm, the Swiss teacher, had grown trench foot. As a result, he could hardly keep up with the rest of the gang. Two weeks in, the group hadn’t located any gold mine or tribe.
Yossi and Kevin opted to make a temporary raft and head to the Tuichi River. They asked Marcus and Karl to go back on foot. Whether they made it back to civilization or not, we aren’t sure.
What about Yossi and Kevin?
As the boys made their way to the river via the makeshift raft, they had no idea more trouble awaited them. After sailing for a while, the two came face to face with a huge current. Kevin noticed the current and jumped off the raft. He then swam to shore. Yossi, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky.
The current swept him and threw him over the waterfall and into a canyon. He fought so hard and kept afloat until the waters had calmed down. He then swam to shore only to realize he was all alone, hungry, exhausted, and scared.
Over the next 20 days, the 22-year old held on to life by a thread. He once encountered a wild boar ready to tear him apart. To save his life, he made a run for it, deep into the rainforest, and shook the animal off. Yossi also fought a jaguar charging at him one of the days. His instinct told him to light up a mosquito repellent and create a flamethrower to wade the jaguar off. It worked.
The Israeli military captain also woke up with aches and pain all over his body one day only to realize he had spent the night on a termite nest. His feet had become so infected that they were essentially fleshy and painful.
To trick his mind into forgetting the pain, Yossi exposed his face to a swarm of fire ants. The stings made the pain bearable for a while. So much more happened while in the jungle, but after 20 days, his friend Kevin alongside other people, rescued him.
The survival story of Yossi Ghinsberg, Marcus, Karl, and Kevin caught the world’s attention that Hollywood had to make a movie about it called “Jungle,” starring Daniel Radcliffe of Happy Potter fame.
Yossi’s book about his adventures is also a best-seller. The 61-year has since gone back to Bolivia to thank his rescuers and visited many countries to tell his story.
Sadly, Marcus Stamm has been M.I.A. since the encounter. We sure hope he’s okay!