Benedict Allen, adventurer and explorer

I MADE international headlines when I failed to turn for a flight home from an expedition to New Guinea in November 2017. The funny thing was I knew nothing about it. I wasn't aware of the publicity or that anyone was looking for me until a helicopter came out of the sky.

I wanted to be an explorer since I was a little boy. My dad was a test pilot and I would see him flying a Vulcan bomber overhead. That gave me a belief that I could be some sort of pioneer. I always held on to this dream of being an explorer.

By the time I left Aberdeen University I was desperate to do it. I earned money working in a warehouse and went to live with local people in the Amazon and New Guinea. I would take very little equipment and immerse myself among them. It became a philosophy.

I filmed a programme with the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner about Birds of Paradise in New Guinea three years ago. I hadn't been to New Guinea for 30 years. I was reminded about the Yaifo people and wondered what had happened to them.

The Yaifo had been amazingly kind to me when I was a 25 or 26. I didn't think they would still be there because there was gold mining in the area. I was told the Yaifo could be heard up on the mountain every now and again. I wanted to go back and see how they were.

I got a helicopter to drop me off in the lowlands and began the trek up. I reached the Yaifo and it was a wonderful reunion. They recognised me after all these years, this white man who had come back. It was unbelievable that they were existing out there, forgotten on this mountainside.

All of that was lost because I then carried on over the mountain towards the outside world. That's when I found out there was a war going on between two groups of local people. I was stuck. I made my way to a mission station, but it had been abandoned too because of the fighting.

The difference between my first visit and now is that I have young children. I knew that I had to walk out of the forest for them. That was what I was preparing to do when a helicopter arrived to pick me up in the middle of nowhere. By this time, I was very ill. I had malaria and dengue fever.

The stories going around were extraordinary. There were people saying I had been kidnapped by head hunters or was an imperialist trying to contact a lost tribe. The truth is I was going back to say thanks to the people who had been wonderful to me all those years ago.

It is intriguing why it caused so much interest and I have been trying to understand that since. I disappeared for 10 days and it strikes me that I was almost breaking a rule in a way. No one cuts themselves off anymore. We all carry our phones and can Google anything to find an answer.

I want to go back to New Guinea and complete that journey. I know that must sound ridiculous but as someone who is so independent-minded to suddenly have a helicopter come out of the sky and whisk me away, I found that very hard. I want to go back there and walk out by myself.

Benedict Allen: Ultimate Explorer is part of the Inspiring People series hosted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He will be speaking in Aberdeen on Monday, Dundee on Tuesday, Dunfermline on Wednesday, Glasgow and Edinburgh on Thursday. Visit and