With so many people holidaying in Australia I thought some members might be interested in this advanced survival course in the West Australian outback which I did a couple of months ago with Bob Cooper http://www.bobcoopersurvival.com/ . I should mention that I do not work for that company.
It lasted 10 days in the Pilbara. We started with refreshers on fire by friction, bush signaling, survival psychology and desert navigation. After lulling us into complacency with day trips to Aboriginal sacred sites, water holes and the like the survival phase began suddenly, we were abandoned and it was tough luck if you were not ready.
In my case I did not have my bush jacket and prescription pills but some others started with no survival kit , completely wet clothes, no contact lens fluid, no water, insufficient clothing etc. That was a wake up call to think like a survivor always.
So we basically had 2 OXO cubes and a glucose tablet each (except the 2 who did no bring their survival kit!). Luckily there were 2 Granola bars and some mints as well, to share between 10 persons. No cookers no other food or kit than a space blanket.
Fire was made by friction and we had to find water and boil it. The first night was cold as anything despite the big fire.
We had to navigate our way to safety with the aid of maps using stellar and solar navigation only. No compasses were issued. We traveled in the mornings, took long afternoon breaks and walked at night to conserve sweat and water. The temperature was in the low 40’s during the day. A completely sodden un-wrung cotton scrim would be bone-dry 20 min after leaving a waterhole
The country was quite spectacular and beautiful and we had 6-7 million hectares to share with a dozen people or so working elsewhere. Beyond that the Pilbara (the size of France) stretched away to the Great Sandy Desert and the state border and more desert in the red heart of Australia. There were cattle, kangaroos, emus and other desert creatures including the beautiful King Brown snake. I saw two.
If you watched the BBC “Extreme Survival” programmes with Ken Bradshaw you will be familiar with the terrain as Bob did the Extreme Survival Heat programme for them.
We moved from waterhole to well to waterhole. After an hour with improvised lures at a rest stop, we managed to catch a tiddler with which we caught an 14” catfish and several small perch that we cooked in the coals (paper bark for plates). That and some desert yams and wattle flowers were the only food we managed to forage or catch. (Incidentally, we caught the fish with hook and line using legal methods!)
Not having food was not a problem. Apart from the odd rumble I had no hunger pangs and food is not a psychological issue with me anymore. Our energy level remained reasonable given the heat and we were able to put a lot of kms away by walking at night. By sticking together we were able to support each other mentally and this largely middle aged (36- 60) group were able to put more miles away on the last day than Bradshaw who was on his own
One big challenge was working with others to achieve consensus. There were some tensions but fortunately all was kept quite polite.
I do recommend it especially if you are and planning to travel in the outback. Sadly a few tourists die every year trying to walk for help and for some reason most are British or German. The average distance the body is found from the car is 8km. Every motorist has more food and water than the 2 liters we had and could have survived for weeks by remaining with their car.
1. Think like a survivor. Ask what do I need if I can’t get home tonight?
2. Wear puttees under trousers – protection as good as gaiters and less sweat lost and the pressure bandage is already in place should you get bitten by snakes – 8 of the 10 deadliest snakes in the world were in our area)
3. Rip stop clothing is a good idea.
4. Gloves (nearly stung by a scorpion) when handling wood / bark
5. Scrim is great for collecting water from inaccessible wells/cracks in rock. Vital item.
7. Lycra cycling shorts and Dri-fit T shirts as base layer work in the desert as well as jungle
8. To improve your range a water bladder is essential in the desert in addition to 2 water bottles (clear plastic)
9. A hip hollow and a sand mound pillow make the best bed in the world
10. You can eat bark
11. A hangi or umu is not worth the trouble in a survival situation