I’ve always been wary of campers, people who chose to sleep outside when history has taught us this is fraught with danger from wild animals and the occasional B-grade movie villain. Thus, when I had the opportunity to learn techniques for surviving in the wilderness, my first instinct was to run the other way.
I had never slept outside or been camping and until recently had considered bushwalks a little too rural for my liking. Who needs the great outdoors when you can download a soothing ‘sounds of the wilderness’ app? However, all this changed when I was offered the chance to do a survival training course with Bush Lore Australia – a course that would teach me fire lighting, water procurement and shelter construction. As much as I dreaded it, I had to admit Ihad no hope of surviving an apocalypse and it would be game over if I was lost in the wilderness. The knowledge that I would be the first gazelle eaten at the watering hole was how I found myself deep within the Sunshine Coast hinterland early one Saturday morning.
Fellow journalist Rachel and I were instructed on our course by Bush Lore Australia owner Rich Hungerford, a man with over twenty years of survival experience.We arrived at our camping ground, which comprised of a small shaded area and tiny fire pit situated at the base of a large hill. First up was a look into the psychology of survival, learning how to think and that your hands and mind are your most important tools when it comes to staying alive. After a day of knot tying, fire starting and emergency signalling night was falling and we were deep in the bush with nowhere to sleep. As someone who can’t build Ikea furniture,the thought of constructing a shelter using only string, knives, dry grass and branches was a daunting one. Halfway through the endeavour all we had done was clear some bush and lose the will to live. Then survival mode kicked in and we managed to construct a shelter that didn’t crush us to death in our sleep. It didn’t matter that we had to put a branch under our feet to stop ourselves rolling away, or that we woke up covered in spiders, we had built it ourselves and our euphoria knew no bounds.
We were up with the sun the next day,cooking damper over the fire we had lit ourselves. Since we were in survival mode our meals consisted of a small piece of damper or a potato, washed down with rainwater. Still, it gave us energy for a bush tucker trek. Our afternoon was spent in hunting practice,using sticks. While I enjoyed feeling like Katniss Everdeen, Rachel took it a little more seriously.
It was after I congratulated her on a close throw and she responded fiercely “close won’t get us dinner” that I wondered if we had been in the wild too long. We only spent two days in the bush, but when we re-entered civilisation it felt like we had been gone a lifetime. While I was happy to be home, and I may have hugged my shower a little too tightly while sobbing “I’ll never leave you again”, the experience was one of the best of my life. Surviving in an unfamiliar situation and learning a whole new set of skills puts more zing in your step than a freshly brewed espresso.
So if you ever need a hand surviving in the wilderness, just call me. I’m your girl.