Published: February 27, 2013
Burnham-On-Sea adventurer retraces Sir Francis Drake's footsteps

Burnham-On-Sea adventurer Michael Turner has returned home after braving poisonous snakes and scorpions in the jungles of Panama.

Michael, 57, has spent much of his life writing about the British explorer, Sir Francis Drake, and following his footsteps.

The highlight of his fortnight-long expedition was reaching the Cerro Brewster Mountain, from where Drake saw the meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

A six-person extreme trekking team supported Michael in fulfilling his 32-year-long dream comprising of a Dutchman, three Panamanians and two Englishmen – one diplomat from the British Embassy in Panama and survival expert Caleb Duckworth, the expedition leader.

The team cut through a 16th century trail to reach a ruined settlement deep in the heart of the rainforest which Drake raided in 1571.

Panamanian maps acknowledge the ruins but can now name them as Venta de Cruces.

"The expedition scrambled over the Continental Divide, including a network of springs and deep rocky gullies where the team risked life and limb," Michael told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

"We had to cling precariously to the mountainside on a very narrow trail, climb waterfalls and to use fallen trees to bridge ravines."

"The Tudors were much tougher than what we are today but even Drake’s general complained of the hardships."

"With the constant slippery mud over very uneven ground, excessive and constant gradients, mud, sweat, cuts, exhaustion, thirst, blisters, bruised toes, mosquitoes, plus poisonous vipers and scorpions, this was my most mentally and physically challenging experience yet."

Each day ended by sleeping in a hammock afflicted by a dry season shower, above soggy muddy ground and donning wet clothes next morning.

The crowning glory was to traverse a steeply undulating ridge with no water supplies to reach the Cerro Brewster Mountain from where Drake saw the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

"This was a pivotal moment in English history since Drake was inspired to sail a ship into the Pacific Ocean which led to him circumnavigating the world, which became the most famous voyage in English history and stimulated England to beat the Spanish Armada of 1588 and to become the world’s most powerful navy," said Michael.

This was the first expedition to identify this Drake landmark and to visit it since February 1572. The team planted the Union flag next to the highest tree in this region of Panama.

To cool down Michael dived and found the two wrecks at Portobelo that the national press has recently purported belonged to Drake’s fleet. Michael has recovered a sample of their timbers for carbon dating.

Michael can fortunately now retire from extreme hiking as he sets his sights on two capes in the warzone of Western Sahara and Cape Horn. This will then complete his 35-year-long quest.

Michael’s website Indrakeswake.co.uk gives more details about his interest in Drake and the books and he has written.

 


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