Our Family Travel blogger gets to grips with surviving in the wild, with her son, Lucas.
My eleven-year-old son, Lucas, felt that the biggest risk was a Zombie Apocalypse. I was leaning more towards an earthquake that took out electricity and all associated conveniences like electrical heating, refrigeration, supermarket food and petrol.
Equally, we could get lost in the bush one day. I'm not an alarmist, but if a catastrophe occurred I'd like to keep myself and my son from freezing or starving to death. This was my motivation to learn the basics of surviving in the wild.
Training day arrived. Our van followed the course of the road next to Queenstown's deep blue Lake Wakatipu (home of the iconic TSS Earnslaw), taking us deep into New Zealand's mountainous and wild native bush. Pulling over, ex-bodyguard and survivalist Peter Hitchman told us to look for the smelliest road kill possible. I glanced at Lucas, who looked as horrified as I felt. Surely our first task wasn't to find and eat the remains of an unfortunate animal squashed by a vehicle?
We exhaled in relief when Peter continued on to explain that if we were fortunate enough to be near a road, it could provide irresistible eel bait. Peter took out his pocket knife and cut some flax from the side of the road. He folded each long green leaf in half and scraped it with a knife exposing the deep fibres. This surface is dipped into roadkill or something else alluring. Eels have backward-facing teeth which can't unclamp from the flax once they bite into it. Peter also explained how to catch other fish from surrounding rivers, streams and lakes.
Red, orange or yellow? Don't touch it fellow
We followed Peter along the path and he described the uses of the plants and trees we passed. If we were unlucky enough to come down with diarrhoea as well as being lost (possibly because we'd resorted to road kill after all), we could dry and chew Hebe (Koromiko) leaves.
Bushman's Friend's leaves with their soft underside seem compassionately designed by nature as toilet paper. Bugs and grubs are mini-packages bursting with nutritive value. The general rule with them is: "if it's red, orange or yellow, don't touch it fellow. If it's green or brown, wolf it down." Rosehip bushes are plentiful in New Zealand. Their vitamin C rich red pods are nice raw once the hairy seeds are picked out.
I'd thought the priority would be the potentially time-consuming task of finding food. Not so. Death comes if you are three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food. So you need to sort out shelter first followed by water.
The most riveting part of the day was making fire by multiple techniques-some explosive. ( As pictured at the top of the page!) We also learnt how to find compass bearings by using the stars, our watches and a Y shaped stick. Knowing which direction to head in can be critical. Going on You vs Wild made for a fun and entertaining half a day, but also one that could mean the difference between life and death. On the way home in the van, I asked Lucas if he'd learned enough to survive in the wild. He said, "Yes, if we get lost, but if it was a Zombie Apocalypse we'd need special guns as well."
By Family Travel Blogger, Trish Johansen. www.intrepidparents.com
Have your say. Have you been on a survivalist course? What skills have you picked up? Share your thoughts, tips and insights!