Lost in the Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Adventure and Survival


 Book Title: Lost in the Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Adventure and Survival

Author: Yossi Ghinsberg

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY

Copyright: 2009/Kindle Version

ISBN: 978-1-60239-370-7

Reviewed by: Yackman


  Yackman’s Rating: 5 points out of 10


Review: This should have been a gripping read, a story of physical and psychological survival equal to what was described in the very well written, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (See my Review).  It should have been, but it was not. 

The first third of the book describes the unfocused sophomoric drifting of Yossi (an Israeli), Kevin (an American) and Marcus (a Swiss), three twenty somethings looking for adventure in South America.  They hook up with some French girls, try psychoactive plants, have sex and generally hang out before all heading in different directions looking for more adventure.  Before that happens, they meet Karl (a German national), a self proclaimed geologist who professes great knowledge of and experience with the jungle.  Before long the three have engaged Karl as a guide for a jungle adventure. 

            In the middle third of the book, they head into the jungle with Karl, minimally, but reasonably equipped for a months adventure.  They have a tarp and a pup tent, mosquito netting, one poncho, one machete, one shotgun and a box of cartridges, some fishing line and hooks, a bunch of cheap propane lighters, matches, some rice and dried beans.  Karl told them that they would be able to hunt for meat along the way.  Before leaving, Yossi contacts several family members and the Israeli Embassy with his itinerary, as best he can describe it, and a date by which they should begin searching for him if he hasn’t contacted them. 

            As it turned out, Karl knew a great deal about living comfortably in the jungle.  At first the three were excited about traveling and living in the jungle. Karl knew how to setup camp, hunt for game and cook over an open fire.  To the three, it seemed like a lark, a great adventure.

But as time wore on, inevitable cracks began to develop in their relationships.  Marcus began to be seen as a weakling and a whiner by Kevin and Yossi.  Kevin was strong, withdrawn and often in conflict with Karl’s decisions.  Yossi generally allied himself with Kevin, leaving Marcus the outsider.  In order to continue their adventure they decide to build a raft and float down the Tuichi River.  Karl becomes un-characteristically anxious about navigating the raft and at a crucial point in the story, Karl refuses to go any further down a river.  The group breaks up with Karl and Marcus planning to walk back the way they had come, while Kevin and Yossi continue on the raft.  The story of how Kevin and Yossi get separated and each survives on his own makes up the final and best part of the book.  It is truly amazing.  (Marcus is never heard of again.  Karl is reported to be alive and running from the law, but can’t be found.)

Yossi went through hell during the twenty days he survived alone in the jungle.  The loneliness, the terrors of each night, the disgust at what was happening to his body, the constant search for food, the hallucinations and fantasies should have been the stuff of a good horror movie, a psychological thriller.  But it was presented in a somewhat detached way, like someone reporting about an incident he had witnessed, rather than experienced himself. This is so different from Aron Ralston’s description of his suffering in Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  Aron pulled you in so that you experienced his suffering yourself.  Not so with Yossi Ghinsberg’s tale.  I wish he had been able to make me care more about his suffering, but he couldn’t.  That is the failing in this tale for me.  


 © Don Yackel 2020