Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bear Grylls Challenge


Headed off yesterday with 3 friends (Brett, Nico & Teresa) and my youngest daughter, Zoe, to Frys Flat, near Mansfield, for what we called a 24 hour Bear Grylls Challenge. 

The basic idea was to spend 24 hours in the bush, with a knife, a flint (fire sparker), some cord, a litre of water, the clothes on your back ...and nothing much more.

We kicked off at 11.30am in bright sunshine.

The Bureau of Met was forecasting a wet couple of days, so when the clouds started ominously rolling in , we knew it was only a matter of time...

Took the walking track down river to Tobacco Flat.  We needed to do quite a few river crossings on the way.

Met a group of horseriders coming the other way - horses are really good at river crossing!

Came across an interesting old shack that someone had been using as as semi-permanent dwelling. 

To honour a pre-event agreement with Zoe, I ate something I found in tree bark that resembled a large slater and Zoe ate a cricket.   Neither of us were keen to go back for seconds.

The journey down river was not without mishap - those river rocks are slippery!

Spotted a snake on a riverbank. It sparked a bit of discussion around the topic of survival cuisine. In the end, a mixture of safety concerns  (could we catch it without getting bitten), legal concerns (they are protected, after all) and a natural reluctance to kill an animal when we weren't actually starving kept the snake vs man score at 0-0.  [I have since been told it was a tiger snake - not as aggressive as a brown snake, but still a snake to be very wary of, particularly when it's had a couple of hours in the sun to warm up.]

The rain finally started mid afternoon, when we were about 40 minutes out of Tobacco Flats.  By this time we'd has enough of river crossings and chose instead to follow the four wheel drive track the rest of the way.

The original plan was that from Tobacco Track we would make our way down the Howqua Walking Track towards the Running Creek camping area, about 10 km down river.  However, with the rain now falling steadily and the day well advanced, we decided to make camp a few hundred metres down the track.

At this point  as per the agreed rules we divided up to each make our own shelter.  Brett decided to make his shelter in the style of a lean-to.   Teresa used a small tarp for hers.   Zoe & I went for a wiki-up style shelter.  Meanwhile, our appointed support person, Nico, got himself comfortably set up with a tarp, hammock and mosquito net.

A wiki-up is in the form of a teepee and requires having a lot of tall poles to form a vertical frame.    I set to work cutting up the required poles.  For this job I used by newly acquired Gerber Big Rock Camp Knife.  I was using it primarily for chopping down then stripping small  (20-50mm) saplings and I have to say that I was very happy with its performance - well weighted, very sharp and with a solid grip.   I did manage to give myself a small cut (requiring a bandaid), but I will put that down mostly to being a newbie to knifecraft.  Anyway, I consider it $50 well spent.  If you're interested, I got it on eBay, from a Sydney-based reseller called Safarex.

To insulate the shelter we used ferns (of which Zoe was an enthusiatic gatherer) and large strips of bark. 

With the shelter mostly done, the next task was to start a fire.  The plan was to do this inside the wiki-up - it would warm up and dry the shelter and the smoke would help keep the mossies away.  This task proved very challenging in the wet conditions.   Although we had collected some dry materials earlier, we simply could not get this to burn using the flint.  

In the meantime one of the other challengers, Teresa, had cut herself on the forehead. It looked like it might need stitches so she and the others decided to walk out.

Zoe & I stayed on, now using a blend of cottonwool/wax donated by our thoughtful support guy.  However, while the wax burned nicely, we could not get the twigs and old fern fronds to stay alight.   In the end, facing the prospect of a night in the rain without a fire (and we were already soaking wet by this time), we too decided to walk out.

It took us about an hour to walk to the car, via the four wheel drive tracks.  That should have been the end of the story..however, more was to come. 

It is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Sheepyard Flats to our home in Melbourne.   To have enough fuel to get us home we needed to refuel in Mansfield; however, by the time we got there, around 10:30pm, all the service stations were closed for the night!   So I went to a drive through bottle shop (at least the pubs were open!) and picked up a few bags of chips and some chocolate bars for our dinner and we drove to the local caravan park, where we were able to rent a cabin for the night.

It rained hard all night.  The next day (after a much-enjoyed breakfast in the town) we found that a few areas had actually flooded - we were very pleased to have not spent the night in the bush!

So that was our Bear Grylls experience. We didn't get to spend the night in the bush or to do any serious food gathering, but we got to build a half-decent shelter and we had a a bunch of fun.

1 comment:

  1. Great recount Andrew! Well done to you and Zoe for outlasting (outwitting? outplaying?) the rest of the gang. Good call not to stay given the 75mm rain in that area overnight! See you soon - Fiona


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