11 January 2017: Two former Royal Marines are back home recovering from an unsupported 40-day trek across Borneo – and planning the next step in their challenge to cross the five biggest islands on Earth.
Louis Nethercott and Anthony Lambert relied on Inmarsat to keep them connected to the outside world as they took on crocodile-infested rivers and came close to starvation deep in the jungle during the first leg of the Expedition 5 challenge, which aims to highlight the mental health issues faced by members of the armed forces.
Their IsatPhone 2 satellite phones and compact IsatHub terminal to use with their own smartphones counted as essential kit in their 40kg backpacks, along with food, water, camping kit, and medical supplies.
As well as ensuring the ex-Commandos could call for help if disaster struck, the satellite equipment also allowed them to share video clips and photos and update their website and social media.
In a series of blogs sent from the jungles and mountains of Borneo, the two friends gave unflinching accounts of some of the challenges they faced along the 1,400km (870 mile) route. At one point, low on supplies and deep in virtually impenetrable mountainous jungle, they faced near-certain defeat, until they plotted an alternative route by fast-flowing river.
Having hacked down enough bamboo to lash together a serviceable raft, the pair braved multiple collisions with fallen trees and a tropical storm to make it to a remote settlement.
“The locals by the river could not believe their eyes when two saturated white men came sailing out of the mountains,” Anthony blogged. “After the initial shock, the good natured hospitable spirit of the Dayak (indigenous people) soon shone through and we were sat recounting our journey in broken Bahasa to a local who had taken us in and given us a hearty meal. After a week of two packets of noodles a day, we soon polished it off.
“With that we had completed a crossing through Borneo using a route that to our knowledge has never been undertaken before.”
Despite the hardships they have faced, the pair insist: “They are insignificant compared to the trials faced by injured servicemen and women who have served our country. The charities we represent – the Royal Marines Charity and Help for Heroes – make a huge difference in their quality of life.”
Papua New Guinea is next up on a list that also includes Madagascar, Greenland and Baffin Island.
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