At the age of 19 I made it my mission to travel around the world and take on ambitious and some might say crazy adventures. I've cycled 700 miles across Australia, learnt how to survive in the jungle with a Burmese Hill Tribe, trekked alone through the Alps during winter (narrowly missing a landslide) cycled Cambodia and the length of Vietnam, and even trained and competed in Muay Thai against fighters in Thailand, whilst working as a master scuba diving instructor.
So when I set out on a 1,600-mile walk covering the length of Madagascar last year via its mountainous ridge, I did this with the confidence of having walked across Mongolia solo and unsupported, over the Altai Mountains, Gobi Desert and Mongolian Steppe and covering 1,500 miles in 78 days. But I was totally unprepared for what happened next.
Halfway through the gruelling trip, travelling over eight of the highest mountains in 155 days, I caught the most deadly strain of malaria - Plasmodium falciparum. Getting malaria - the world's oldest and deadliest disease - was very debilitating and very scary.
At first I became increasing dehydrated so I drank plenty of water and cola, ate rice with salt. I could tough it out. Or so I thought. By the time I reached the village of Tsarasoa, my eyes hurt, I had agonising headaches and gradually felt worse and worse. I needed to get myself out of there and luckily there was local transport to the second biggest city in Madagascar, Fianarantsoa, which was only three hours away.
By the time I got there my temperature had shot past 40 degrees, the room was spinning, I was delirious and suffering with diarrhoea. But I was lucky as doctor's managed to catch and diagnose my condition just in time. I was told just a few more hours and my life would have hung in the balance. Recovery took almost a week, I lost a lot of weight, was very sick and suffered nightmares and hallucinations. But after six days and feeling what I reckoned was 95% better, I continued my trek, summiting eight mountains and finishing with a world-breaking record on 15th February 2016. Incredibly tired but incredibly proud.
I wouldn't wish my experience on anyone, it was truly horrific. Since that time, I've come across more and more people who have also suffered from malaria, including my guide in Madagascar who had malaria as a child. They were lucky ones. So many don't survive. A child dies every two minutes and half the world is at risk, with some 212 million cases annually.
But as I've become involved in the fight against malaria I've discovered it's not all gloom and doom. Massive progress in reducing the number of deaths from malaria has been made saving more than six million lives since 2000, and the disease has been eliminated in 17 countries in just 15 years. The UK public and Government have played a huge part in this success through strong leadership and effectively channelled aid which is clearly working.
The world knows what needs to be done and we have the tools to do it, so why stop now? I'm all for ambition - it's what I do - and as a Special Ambassador for Malaria No More UK I back the goal of being the generation to end malaria once and for all. The Mosquito film on Discovery clearly shows that the mosquito poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of mankind. The pesky mosquito. The smallest of animals but also the deadliest, notorious for being one of the biggest killers in human history spreading malaria, dengue, yellow fever and Zika. We know what needs to be done. We just need to make sure we do it.
Ash is a spokesperson for the Discovery Impact film MOSQUITO. It aired on Thursday 6th July at 9pm on Discovery Channel and can be watched here.Suggest a correction