Meet Lancaster’s answer to Christopher Columbus

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Simon Chapman has been charged by stampeding wild boar, trapped in canyons, swept down a river and lived to tell the tale.

Lancaster’s answer to the adventurous heroes of yesteryear stepped back in time for his latest expedition which he recalls in his new book, The Land of the Celestial Jaguar.

Simon followed in the footsteps of 16th Century conquistadors when he set off to trace their journeys through the forests of Northern Bolivia.

His exploits have been praised by president of the Scientific Exploration Society, Colonel John Blashford Snell, who wrote the foreword to the book, describing Bolivia as one of the last great wildernesses.

Morecambe High School’s Head of Science, Simon does have form when it comes to adventures.

His previous expeditions include searching for tigers in Siberia, exploring tropical forests worldwide and crossing the Bolivian lowlands by horse, canoe and foot.

“This is how I chill out,” he said.

“I love the stories of the old explorers – my hero is the Edwardian explorer, Colonel Fawcett, and I like jungles more than anything as you never know what’s round the next tree.”

Sometimes it can be danger and Simon’s most frightening experience was being held up by drug runners with machetes in Brazil 12 years ago.

But he reckons it’s all worth it for amazing sights such as coming face to face with a puma.

One of Simon’s friends who has accompanied him on his adventures is Dave Clark who founded the former Folly photographic gallery in Lancaster and now lives in China.

But once Simon comes to journey’s end, he returns to his wife and two children to write and illustrate books about his adventures.

His first book – The Monster of the Madidi – which told the story of his search for a mythical giant ape, was published in 2001 and more than 20 books have followed.

“I write to show the need to preserve the amazing places that I visit,” he said.

“Many people now, especially children, seem to be living a virtual existence and my books show what it’s like to be in a place where there’s no power or contact with the outside world.”

To help encourage the adventurous spirit in today’s generation, Simon also writes books for children, most recently Alien Invasion. This is part of the You Choose If You Live or Die series including Viral Outbreak, Jungle Crash and Prisoner Escape which are all out now.

In 2005, he won the Blue Peter Award for Best Book With Facts for his book on the North Pole, one of 10 books in the Explorers Wanted series for young people which have been translated and sold in their thousands worldwide.

Simon, who is a fellow of the National Geographic Society, has also written four books for reluctant readers and is available to give talks.

The Land of the Celestial Jaguar is available on Amazon or via Simon’s website

His children’s adventure books can be found in bookshops.