David Beckham, the former England football team captain, heads off on an unforgettable motorbike journey – Into the Unkown – around Brazil and its Amazonian jungles riding classical Triumph bikes.
Together with three friends – video director Anthony Mandler, experienced rider and mechanic Derek White and Dave Gardner, his manager and childhood friend.
Into the Unknown, the motorbike journey
They start their adventure in Rio de Janeiro, staying in five-star hotels, where Becks is spotted by the paparazzi. Jumping on their bikes for a speedy getaway, the friends escape to a favela slum called Vidigal. Later, down on Sao Conrado beach, the locals can’t believe their luck when David joins them for a game of foot volleyball.
The Beckham party then fly out to Manaus, the tropical gateway to the Amazon, and subsequently to a remote territory in the middle of the jungle – where even Becks is largely unknown. And really into the unknown. From then on they sleep in hammocks and ride much of the way, getting dirtier and muddier.
Beckham himself, rides a Triumph Scrambler throughout the Amazon rainforest, together with two of his three mates. Dave Gardner follows in an ancient Ford F100 pick-up truck. There is also an extensive film crew in tow to film the entire venture for a BBC documentary. The documentary wins some cred for the classic Triumph Scrambler motorbike in the same way that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did for BMW’s GS bikes in their two Long Way Round series. The regular crashes in the mud also add to the appeal. It’s not surprising given the tacky mud and the standard semi-knobby tyres on the Scrambler.
In an interview with kickass travel hero Michael Palin, Beckham has admitted that he loved the anonymity of riding through Brazil’s Amazon rainforest on a motorbike. This into the unknown while being unknown was the inspiration for the documentary title. His journey wasn’t without its challenges and dangers though.
The football star, who explored the world’s largest rainforest on two wheels said he was thrilled by the sense of freedom he felt on the trip, but struggled with sleeping in a hammock and not being able to wash as often as he liked.
Speaking to Palin in a special interview, the former England player said he wanted to mark his retirement from professional football by embarking on the Brazilian odyssey. ‘I retired 12 months ago and my whole life, my whole career has been about having a particular schedule that I’ve always kept to, so we just wanted to be able to jump on the bikes and do what we wanted, wherever we wanted’, he explained.
The star decided to travel with three of his closest friends, Anthony Mandler (a world-renowned photographer and video director), Derek White (an experienced motorbike rider), and best friend Dave Gardner who he has known since they were 14.
‘I wanted to do something that we would all enjoy – I’m a big motorbike rider and so are two of my three friends that came with me on this trip. It was the kind of journey that had no schedule. ‘It was important to also find somewhere where I was unrecognisable, and we found that.’
The trip was organised and filmed by Anthony, who didn’t exactly give his fellow travellers a full briefing about what they would be up to: ‘Derek came with a suitcase of ‘going out’ shirts! He wasn’t expecting to camp, he wasn’t expecting to go into the jungle, so it was a whole surprise for him. Dave and I were better prepared but Anthony still didn’t tell us much which is actually what I wanted.’
Beckham admitted that the anonymity riding the bike afforded him was liberating.
‘When I have the helmet on nobody knows it’s me. When I’m on a bike it’s one of the few times that I feel free – so bikes were a big part of it for me.’
But while David looked forward to his adventure, it seems his family were worried about how he would cope. His son Brooklyn predicted his dad would struggle with spiders in the jungle, while wife Victoria joked that he would need to wear a hat ‘the whole time’ to cover up his messy hair.
The four friends set off to Brazil, just a few months ahead of the World Cup, to explore the wilds of the rainforest for a 90-minute BBC Documentary called ‘David Beckham: Into the Unknown’.
In the documentary you will see the group fly in to the rainforest city of Manaus – where England played Italy – and racking up the miles as they head into the wilderness, bed down in hammocks and even catch and fillet their own fish, before cooking them on the open fire. They stumbled upon tarantulas and six-foot long anacondas as they travelled along the Amazon in ‘leaky’ canoes.
In the interview with Palin, himself famed for circumnavigating the globe for various BBC documentaries, Beckham admitted he found sleeping in a hammock quite a challenge and only slept for 30 minutes on his first night in the jungle. It was only when someone taught him how to sleep comfortably – either diagonally or ‘like a frog’ – that he finally managed to get the hang of it.
‘I’ve been in a hammock before with the kids or with Victoria, but sleeping in a hammock that was going to be your bed for 12 days, that was a whole different thing’, he explained.
‘My first night’s sleep in the hammock was terrible, I had about 30 minutes sleep. About two days later someone decided to explain how best to sleep in a hammock and after that it was great.’
However, the star admitted that the lack of washing facilities did get him down: ‘I am a clean person, so that was pretty tough for me,’ he said.
Despite the hardships, the footballer became a dab hand at making a fire.
And he certainly seemed to bond well with the locals he met into the unknown parts of the jungle, particularly when he met members of the remote Yanomami tribe, who have interacted with very few westerners.Beckham described the experience as a ‘huge honour’ but admitted he found it nerve-wracking.
The tribe greeted him with a special welcoming ceremony and the children were intrigued by the tattoos on his arms, which they tried to rub off.
Another of the tribesmen asked: ‘What do you do? What do you hunt?’ When David explained he was a professional footballer, the man asked ‘What is football?’
‘I didn’t explain it very well’, says Beckham, ‘the only time I’ve ever had to explain football before is probably to my wife.’
David said the team took quite a difficult route through the rainforest, admitting there were a few ‘dodgy roads along the way’. But hey, that’s normal when you cruise into the unknown territory that they ventured into.
Beckham jokingly admitted that ‘Seeing Dave really, really struggle – that was a most pleasurable part of the trip!’