What scares me the most?
I'm a risk manager by trade, so I spend my time analysing risk and thinking about 'what is worst case?'. When I apply that to this expedition, 'worst case' is fairly extreme and really doesn't end well for me.
I'm in the process of doing a risk assessment on the entire trip. Identifying the risks (of which there is no shortage), establishing how likely they are and what the worst outcome could be. Then see if there's a way of removing or reducing these risks.
So for example, there is a risk that I get malaria - on a scale of 1-5, with 1 highly unlikely and 5 almost guaranteed, I'd put this at a 5. It's rife along where we're travelling. The worst case is pretty bad - people do die from it. But there are things I can consider - take anti-malaria pills for the length of the trip, ensure I have meds to deal with it should I (or my team mates) come down with it and learn really thoroughly what the signs and symptoms are.
The four major risks as I see them are as follows:
Animals: in the form of those big reptiles, with big teeth and a strong bite. Along with their river friends that are deceptively kinda cute looking but are actually vicious aggressive bastards. Pics of both below. On top of that there are snakes, spiders and scorpions. Oh good.
Disease, injury and illness: there are plenty of options to choose from here - malaria as mentioned, dengue fever, bilharzia and dysentery all spring to mind. Injuries such as major cuts and broken bones are definitely a possibility. Being out on the river, hundreds of miles from medical assistance, even the most innocuous of injuries or illness can have serious outcome. To be prepared there'll be advanced first aid training, carrying medical supplies and having things like sat nav phones to contact people if needed.
The environment: as we head north the temperatures are going to ramp up potentially to 40C+. I've experienced 40C days here in Australia and I can assure you the last thing I feel like doing on those days is to spend all day outside paddling. The risk of heat exhaustion is high. Then there are the rapids - come out of the raft on these and you can add drowning to the list of possible outcomes. Assuming of course Mr Crocodile and Ms Hippo don't get me first. With the heat, timing is key to make sure we're not heading through places like the north of Sudan and south of Egypt in summer time.
Physical attack: where ever you are in the world this is a risk - whether walking down the most expensive and exclusive streets in the world or where we go on this expedition. There are things we'll be doing here - being smart, having security and protection where needed and getting regular intelligence reports and talking to key local contacts. And acting accordingly. This isn't an 'at all costs' trip.
I'll have a support team back home to help deal with any situations that arise. We'll have a set of protocols including where to go and who to contact in the event of a situation coming up. They will be complemented with regular intelligence reports and security advice throughout the trip.
Like I say we will be doing the utmost to minimise risks that may be encountered on this trip.
But let's face it, "Adventure without risk is Disneyland" (Doug Coupland) - too true dat.