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5 November 2018, 14:57
Poached tarantulas and donkey hikes along a crumbling cliff edge? That's no problem for Sue Perkins.
Sue Perkins is self-admittedly a late bloomer when it comes to travelling the world – before embarking upon her recent trip along the Mekong river, the farthest she had ever ventured was to the Costa del Sol.
Having left the warmth of the Great British Bake Off tent, she embarked upon a solo travelling documentary across India and South East Asia. Her new book, East of Croydon, is borne out of this trip.
When asked what compelled her to take such a bizarre trip, she said: "It felt like a dare, and I’ve never been able to resist a dare."
Because of this, she wouldn't have any issues doing the dreaded Bush Tucker Trials on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, but she still wouldn't like to ever do it.
"There’s nothing about I’m a Celebrity that scares me," she told us. "For me, kangaroo’s nipple? Yeah, I’ve had worse. I really have. That’s almost like a walk in the park now.
"But actually… I think Ant and Dec are just marvellous, and I love them. But I just don’t like the way the animals… I don’t like it.
"If I was in a glass coffin with a load of spiders being poured on me, the only thing I’d think about is: 'Have I squashed a spider?'. I don’t really like watching it for that reason. I know that sounds really hokey, but I kind of love animals too much to have them wilfully poured all over me for entertainment.
She added: "I think they did ask once, in the early days. But yeah, it’s a great show to watch, but not for me. The older I get, as well, you have to really justify leaving home.
"You really want a good excuse to go away and be apart from the people you really love. I think if you’re going to say 'I’ve worked with rehabilitating elephants' or 'I’ve climbed a mountain to a sacred spot' or 'I’ve met the Dalai Lama’s second-in-command' – I think those are good excuses.
"But to say, 'You know what? I really love you, but I’m not here for seven weeks because I want to have my pants filled with crickets' – I’m not sure that tests as well."
Here are some of the wildest things Sue got up to during her travels:
What's the most bizarre thing you've said yes to?
"Ooh. What’s the most bizarre thing I’ve said yes to? Food-wise, very much a poached tarantula is probably the weirdest. I’ve had a lot of weird food."
How does one poach a tarantula?
"I think they just pop them into boiling water and just let them simmer for a little bit. So yeah, like a really weird, gooey egg."
And the weirdest experience you've said yes to?
"Well, climbing a mountain when I’m super-unfit was very unwise. I just said, 'Yeah, how hard could it be?'
"I said, 'How long is this sort of climb through the Himalayas?' He said, 'It’s about 15km. It’s fine. On the flat.' I went, 'Yeah, great. It’s on the flat.' Then when I got there and started up the mountain, I thought, 'How could I climb up the Himalayas and be on the flat?"
"Anyway, it turned out to be about 20 miles. I did it over two days, and we were crawling with the altitude. We were [gasps] breathing like that. We made it up to the top in the end. it was alright. It felt like a big deal, that, because I’m not super-fit. But that was a crazy 'yes', that one."
Can you just roll down?
"I got a donkey, which was amazing. They’re amazing. so the donkeys were about six inches – no more – from the edge of a ravine, and we were a 1,000-metre drop to the water. And the porters were sort of kicking the donkeys and going 'Chullo chullo!' which means 'Move on! Move on!'
"I kept saying, 'Do you want to not kick the donkey, because that’s seriously uncool? But also, this donkey knows exactly what it’s doing.' It would just put out a little hoof and just check the rubble. And if it moved? Not good. Because of course, there’s so many landslides. It didn’t want to end up careering down the mountainside.
"That was quite an exhilarating trip, down that. I was totally terrified for the whole thing. Really terrified. It was quite full on."
So it was worse going down than up?
"Oh, yeah. Going up, you’re mad with oxygen deprivation and you don’t care. You just go, 'Get me to the top, get me to the top.' You’ve got an oxygen tank and a flash of coffee, and everyone’s screaming and crying and you all feel quite brave.
"And on the way down, that’s the terror, yeah – you’ve forgotten that there was this scree and rubble and a big drop next to you. Yeah, it was quite weird."
East of Croydon has been shortlisted for Autobiography of the Year at the 2018 National Book Awards and is out now.