We’re talking with award winning writer, Jim Wiltens. When not writing or adventuring, he presents programs to academic and corporate groups on leadership, memory enhancement, and creativity. His latest book, Camels, Skulls, and Cobras is a wild ride across India, slipping just under the barbwire for an exciting journey.
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Patte: Your book is fascinating, Jim. What inspired your many varied interests?
Jim: I began writing probably about thirty or forty years ago as a journalist with a newspaper column on how to bring out the best qualities in children. It became nationally syndicated and then went international. A lot of the articles I wrote eventually became chapters in some of my books.
Q: Did you set out to become a writer?
A: I used to be a research scientist, but the adventurer spirit was in my blood from the time of my boyhood. My uncle was an adventure photographer and he took me with him on a few adventures and I was hooked.
Q: Was that when your spirit for adventure actually took over?
A: Well, I started little adventures as kids often do, and by the time I was eighteen, I was a guide at Yosemite. It just kept growing from there.
Q: Have you ever met up with a friendly alligator on any of your adventures?
A: In Florida I would go paddling with alligators. Later on in South Africa I worked on a crocodile farm. It was one of the few places I have worked where the animals can eat you if you’re not careful. A crocodile is extremely fast, where as the alligator is not. A crocodile will definitely go for you! They will float in a pond or river like a dead log, and once they get close to their prey, they make a rapid rush and you’re suddenly lunch.
In Zimbabwe they say the lion is the most dangerous, or even the bull elephant, but the more people I have talked to claim the crocodile is by far the most dangerous. They’re extremely fast.
Q: How are alligators compared to crocodiles?
A: I think alligators are much friendlier than one would assume. I’ve actually held an alligator six or seven feet long, but I would never do that with a crocodile — they are very aggressive.
Q: Your book, Camels, Skulls, and Cobras, was a wild, sometimes scary, and at the same time a very funny adventure across India. Can you tell us a little more about your other adventures?
A: Well, I’ve been marooned on a desert island off the coast of Canada, cave diving in the cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in search of ancient human skeletons, kayaking through head hunter territory in Ecuador, as well a paragliding off the caldera of an extinct volcano in Mexico. And that’s only a few adventures.
Q: When not adventuring, what do you do in your spare time —- that is, if you have any actual spare time?
A: During the school year, I work with children in Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs in school districts throughout California as well as presenting workshops for corporate groups such as Google and academic institutions such as Stanford University.
For over twenty-five years I’ve spent my summers in the high Sierra Mountains as Director of “Deer Crossing Camp,” a wilderness summer camp for children that receive instruction in everything from white water kayaking to technical rock climbing.
Q: To sum up our brief interview, what would be your closing remark?
A: Well, one of my favorite quotes is from David Curtis, “We are what we are, and where we are, because we have first imagined it.”