SGB Outdoor editor James Mercer recently caught up with traveller Laura Bingham aka ‘Hunger Girl’ ahead of her ambitious South American expedition…
Travelling across South America with limited resources is a tough challenge for anyone, but to do it with no money or food is an even bigger task.
Laura Bingham is more commonly known for her modelling skills as opposed to her exploits as an adventurer, but this self-filmed expedition will certainly put her on the map as an explorer.
Laura is a firm believer in the notion that those who have the least are often willing to give the most and this expedition is set to put that idea to the test.
Testing herself to the absolute limit, Laura will be reliant on the generosity of the people she meets, only eating and taking shelter with people kind enough to offer it or as a last resort relying on her own skills to forage.
Having previously lived in Mexico, Laura picked South America as the best place for the expedition. She said: “I have lived in Mexico and I know a lot of South American people and they are truly lovely, kind hearted people so I have faith in that continent and in mankind.
“I’m scared though I only say that I’m scared because it’s a fear of the unknown. It’s a fear because I have no idea who I’m going to meet and how they will react to me.”
The 23-year-old is also aware of the strong possibility of having to find food for herself, but it’s something she is more than comfortable doing: “I’ve always had a love for living off the land. As I got older I realised how this way of life was disappearing so I took a special interest in how to be self-sufficient.”
Her journey starts in Colombia and will see her pass through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay before finishing the 7,521km bike journey in Argentina. Along the route Laura will take on the Amazon rainforest, deserts and the Andes mountain range where she will tackle some of the toughest environments on the continent.
An expedition of this magnitude takes a lot of preparation and planning, Laura said: “I do a lot of general fitness and try to cycle between 200-300 miles a week to keep myself in shape but most importantly I’m eating a lot of good proteins and trying to put on as much muscle weight as possible which I will need to store for when I leave.”
Although the preparation is key Laura doesn’t want to push her body too hard before leaving, she added, “But at the same time I don’t want to tire my body out before it goes on such a large journey.
“Although this will be my biggest challenge yet, I have already faced sailing across the Atlantic, some Jaguar conservation work in Mexico as well as lots of general travel adventures.”
Each leg of the journey will bring its own challenges, which means Laura will need to think very carefully about the products she uses, she said: “My choice of products are extremely important as I will be depending on them for 6300+km. If the bike breaks, the shoes rub or if the clothes are uncomfortable it will be a disaster, which will make an already tough journey 100x harder.
“I’ll be wearing Shimano shoes, Gore Bike Wear are providing me with my clothing apparel and Rab will be providing my expedition gear. I’m using Rab’s Latok Mountain 2 tent which I took for a test run, it’s really warm and very wind proof. I will also be using a Hennesy Hammock which is really sturdy and comfy for jungle sleeping. Lastly I am using the Rab Andes 800 as my sleeping bag and I absolutely love it!”
Laura’s passion for exploration is something she shares with her fiancé Ed Stafford, a well-known figure in exploration who is more commonly known for becoming the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River between 2008 and 2010, which was documented in the 2011 TV series Walking the Amazon on Channel 5.
Ahead of the trip Ed consulted with another of the world’s greatest adventurer’s Sir Ranulph Fiennes and it became clear that Laura’s mission was too dangerous to be undertaken alone and that she would need some kind of support team. Laura said: “Ed spoke with Sir Ranulph Fiennes and asked him to be my patron and after hearing more about my expedition he said I couldn’t go alone as it would be far too dangerous, so he suggested someone should go with me.”
And that’s where Ed’s experiences in the Amazon come into play, as Laura will be accompanied by world renowned Peruvian jungle expert Gadiel “Cho” Sánchez Rivera, the same man who accompanied Ed when walking the Amazon.
Laura is pleased to have Cho’s experience alongside her, she said, “I will have Cho with me- he is my support team. I trust him and I know he’s loyal after walking for two years with Ed. Other than him and the satellite phone we are alone.”
Jungle expert Cho isn’t entirely sure of how the expedition will plan out but is looking forward to the challenge, he said: “Laura must be as mad as Ed. To cycle across the continent with no money will be a near impossible task. I’m not sure how we’ll do it but, whatever happens, it will be an extraordinary experience.”
This is just the first of many adventures for Laura, who has a number of challenges planned for the future. “I’ve got a list of 87 things I need to tick off but the list keeps growing! Perhaps the next one will be to Pedelo down the amazon or roller blade across America; the more creative the better!”
You can follow Laura’s progress across South America through her website www.laurabingham.org or follow her Twitter page @laurabingham93 for updates.