Ben Kozel – Australia
Showing in: Wanaka
Wanaka Session 7: Sunday June 30
Wanaka 7:30pm (doors open at 7:00pm with live music)
Ben was born in 1973, in the driest state on the driest continent. Significantly perhaps, his hometown Adelaide was once one of two ports in the world where visiting ships refused to take on water. The city’s drinking water was (and still is) largely piped long distance from the turbid Murray River. Indeed, the connection to muddy rivers was made early on. Growing up, he could often be found with his nose planted firmly in an atlas. By the age of ten, this unnatural love of geography saw him able to rattle off the major cities and basic statistics of almost any country.
Through his early twenties he led teams on bushland regeneration projects all over Queensland, nurturing what would become a lifelong passion for conservation. Then came the fateful query from an old backpacking chum – ‘interested in rafting the Amazon?’. Less than a year later, he stood at the Atlantic Ocean, a member of only the third team to successfully trace the entire 6700 kilometre length of the world’s mightiest river. It must be said that the murky brown water rather reminded him of home. Oddly enough, regular near death experience and months of continuous privation can get under the skin. And the Amazon was soon followed by the first source-to-sea descent of the world’s fifth longest river, the Yenisey, which traverses Mongolia and Siberia before spilling into the icy Arctic Ocean. Much of this journey occurred in an old wooden rowboat, restored to seaworthiness and fitted out so that it could be rowed around the clock.
In the period since, Ben has written extensively about his adventures. He has also maintained that conservation bent, recently earning a Master of Environmental Science degree. He currently lives in the Dandenong Ranges, just outside Melbourne, where he divides his time between taming his two young children, high school teaching, paddling his inflatable kayak, and slowly hatching plans for a camel journey through Saharan North Africa. It’s fair to say that the lack of running water in the Sahara worries him a lot less than the prospect of marauding Tuareg fighters.