In this video I face a few problems – a cobra that came into the back garden, a tick bite that itched to the point that I wanted to cut my own skin off and the search for bamboo shoots that didn’t go at all as planned.

The spitting cobra I managed to snag with my homemade snake removal device (a broom handle with a coat hanger hook on the end) – I pulled him out of the tree and onto the ground and almost immediately lost sight of him in the grass (and I beat a quick retreat!). Normally, of course, you would simply leave snakes alone and they will, generally, leave you alone – but I was worried that this one might go down into the car park and bite the dogs.

After three days the itch from the tick bite finally subsided – but they are really very unpleasant and worth avoiding if you can (they carry disease as well).

…and then there was the bamboo. I was very confident of quickly finding some bamboo shoots for this video as I come across them all the time. Turns out I was over confident and, for whatever reason, the bamboo shoots I was finding were all rotten. However, this was a useful lesson to relearn as, in the jungle, it is foolish to rely on finding the specific plant you need and much better if you have a repertoire of plants that you can fall back on.

When I was eleven or so, I was given a copy of the excellent SAS Survival Guide and, with the impatience of youth, flicked idly through it (glancing only at the
pictures) and closed the book convinced that I could survive anything (even a nuclear war!)….but of course I couldn’t; there is a huge difference between watching someone doing something and being able to do it ourselves…on top of which, nature likes to throw you a curve ball every now and again as well!

There are many survival TV programs that have done the rounds and, in some of them, it seem to me that the ease with which the expert finds food, or lights a fire, or builds a raft (!) can be misleading.

Ray Mears, of whom I’m a fan by-the-way, makes a lot of quite difficult skills look remarkably easy – I imagine this is because a) he clearly is very skilled at these techniques and b) the process is edited to speed it up (as many viewers won’t be interested in the fine details behind the techniques). This is fair enough as, at the end of the day, he is making a TV program (rather than teaching a course) and therefore has to take out some of the more mundane (but often very important) points.

Les Stroud is someone who manages to realistically convey the difficulties of surviving in the wilderness. For this he receives a certain amount of flak from arm chair survivalists who mock the fact that he can’t find food (which he generally doesn’t) or for the fact that he complains about the weight of camera equipment he has to lug around and rarely gets a good nights sleep. To me this picture he paints is a realistic one, generally things don’t go exactly according to plan in the wilderness.  Far from being a moaner, he strikes me as someone who has a very positive attitude and the flexibility to  deal with the inevitable set backs.   Also, very importantly, he is on his own out there: there is no camera crew.  This is a very psychologically important point indeed as it is much harder to face any difficulties if you are truly on your own in the middle of nowhere.

…and then there’s Bear Grylls. I watched the video clip of his (unorthodox) bow drill technique (which was surprisingly, very surprisingly) effective and then watched no more. Enough said.

So, for me, I would only fully trust in the junglecraft techniques and jungle foods that I have experience of already – that’s not to say i don’t enjoy watching how other people do things, rather that I like to try it for myself before I rely on it.

Back to bamboo – it is the king of survival resources in the jungle but requires practice before it really unveils all it has to offer. For example, the bamboo fire saw is a technique that I wouldn’t suggest someone attempts (if they were in a survival situation) unless they have successful experience of using the technique already. Why? Because they might simply end up spending far too much time trying (and probably failing) to get a fire going with this tricky technique which would be better spent doing something else (e.g. searching for wood to use in a bow drill).

Similarly, looking (only) for bamboo shoots for two mornings (which was what I did) would not be a good survival strategy. Whereas searching the immediate area for all plants and food that can be eaten would be….flexibility, a good plan and knowledge are key.

The technique of getting water from bent bamboo proved more effective than I had thought – again, this demonstrates why it is worth trying these things beforehand. Before I tried this technique I was uncertain how well it would work (and therefore might not have tried using it in a survival situation) whereas now I know it works I would definitely use it, particularly as it is so easy to set up.