So I signed this form that said the leaders would not have to take responsibility for any damage I might suffer during this survival test.
A few days later I got out of a car on a since long abandoned roundabout in the middle of nowhere. The people in the front seat wished me good luck before they drove away. The first thing that struck my mind was the sound of a breeze blowing through the young trees but it wasn’t the wind. It was a very thin rain that hammered the trees, it looked more like fog than rain. I could see old tracks after forest machines leading in different directions into the forest. This was the starting point of the 2 weeks I was supposed to spend in the forest.
The rules: I could use whatever methods I wanted to as long as it didn’t involve contact with humans in any way. I could bring the clothes I wore, a knife and whatever items I could fit in this small box that fit in my pocket. In it I had put a piece of flint, a string saw, thin steel wire and bandage. Also I had to bring a GPS device that reported my location. It also had two buttons, one which I was supposed to press everyday to say I’m ok and one I could press if I for some reason couldn’t go on with the test, they would assume it’s an emergency and come get me.
I started walking across the roundabout. As I took the step over the ditch, away from the manmade roundabout and across to the since long untouched forest my heart skipped a beat. “I’m really doing this!” I checked my pockets to see I got everything and then started walking east…I think. It was still early morning; the dew wet my pants and the rain my shirt in just a few hours I was soaking wet. Along the way I’d been thinking of what to eat during these 2 weeks. I had peeled some bark from a few trees I passed and ate it, it tasted very bitter but it would give me vitamins.
The sun was now standing high on the sky and I was getting hungry. I had walked for about 6 hours. The terrain had changed from young forest filled with roads for machines to very old forest with not a single trace of humans. There was a half rot tree lying on the ground. I found a stick and smashed a part of it to pieces. The small creatures now crawling and running around on the ground was going to be my lunch today. I took the biggest beetle I could see, thought it through, and then put it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed as fast as I could. It tasted better than the bark anyway.
The rains stopped as I started walking again, this time I was sure I was heading east. I figured if I continue in one direction long enough I should come across water.
It was now beginning to darken. I began to look out for a good place to spend the night. I found a big tree that covered the ground below from the rains pretty good and decided that this would have to do. I collected some wood and started a fire with the piece of flint. Then I took some branches and made myself a little bed on the ground. On the way here I had smashed every rot tree I saw and peeled some bark of many trees. Despite that I was dying of hunger and thirst. It had rained for the last 4 hours or so. I took my shirt off and twisted it to make the water in it flow down into my throat. I realized that I had no control over the situation whatsoever, no proper shelter, no water, no nothing. Also I was soaking wet and would probably get sick. It was getting cold so I added more wood to the fire and before I finally fell asleep it had turned into a minder bonfire, I still froze a lot that night.
The following days I spent walking between the rain showers. During the rains I would start a fire, sit under a tree and hang my shirt out to collect water. As I walked I smashed all rot trees I could find and ate all the bark I could. Insects, bark, water from a twisted shirt and several miles walked. That was what I had achieved so far. I was hungry and tired.
On the 4th day I arrived at an area where there were many pigeons. I spent most of the afternoon and evening sitting perfectly still and watch the pigeons as they flew. When they flew low and fast they were heading towards water. When they were flying high and often stopped to rest they were heading home again, this much I knew. After a few hours I thought I had noticed a pattern in how the pigeons flew. I decided that I would head the way the pigeons had showed me.
Next day I found water! It was a small lake, it wouldn’t have taken me more than 2 minutes to walk around it. It lay in the middle of a gigantic swamp, which made it impossible for me to set up camp anywhere near this lake. But it was probably the best I was going to find. I made my way through the swamp to the lake and swallowed half a mouthful of its water. If nothing weird had happened to me by evening I could try to drink a bit more of the water tomorrow. I started looking for a potential campsite as near the lake as possible. Just a couple of hours later I started feeling nauseous. It wasn’t worse than that I could continue looking for a campsite. By evening I had found a perfect spot, it was a small but high hill, about 5 meters high. At the top of it there was a big tree standing, its branches reached out to protect a big enough area from the rains. From the top of the hill I could look out over the surroundings that consisted of old dense forest on moist swamp-like ground. I felt the happiness almost flowing over the edge of the vessel. Only thing holding it down was this nauseous feeling, I wouldn’t be able to drink this water as it was, and I couldn’t rely on the rains to continue. I would have to keep moving tomorrow. I had noticed some animal made trails on my way, I figured it might lead to another water source.
Sixth day and I set of following one of the trails. Along the way, I got some tasty variety in my bark and insect diet in shape of grilled frog, considered a delicacy in some countries. It was about lunchtime and I was swinging my legs back and forth along the trail as I heard something moving just a little bit into the forest. I stopped and listened, the sound continued. It was something big moving between the trees. I started sneaking towards it as careful as I could, the sound continued. I had got about 10 meters from the trail when the sound suddenly stopped, I felt like something was staring at me or at least knowing I was there. I froze too. Then the being at the other end, just a few meters from me sprinted away into the forest, I tried to at least get a glint of what it was but failed. A little disappointed I turned back towards the trail but before I started walking I saw a piece of metal sticking up through the moss. I grabbed it and it came loose from the ground. It was a beam about 1 meter long and with a hole in the middle. This I recognized, once it had been a key part of a sledge they would have used to transport timber back in the days when real horse powers were used. The hole had an oval shape, that meant this beam had been worn out, replaced and then left or forgotten here and been laying here since at least the 1930´s. The vessel got flooded now. If I somehow could turn this into a thing that could contain water I could make a device for distillation, then I could drink the water from the lake! I immediately started thinking of what material I would need. I would need leafs from a tree I’d passed on my way here, the big and hollow stalks of those flowers I saw before, some sticks, some mud and the bark of a birch…shouldn’t be too hard to find one. This would work I was sure of it!
The next day was the first day so far that it didn’t rain. I hung my clothes to dry and went to collect all the items I would need then sat in the sun on my little hill and constructed a distillation device. Before dark I had wore dry clothes for the first time in a week and constructed a distillation device. It was time to try it out the next morning.
First thing I did the next day was to go down to the lake and scoop up a full cup of water. The cup was made of bark from a birch. Back at the hill I poured the water in the beam that I by the power of fire and leverage had shaped into an ugly sauce pan, sealed with mud and moss. The whole thing was hanging above the fire. The water I poured in it would start to boil, the steam would rise up to the top of the pan where it would be lead into pipes made of hollow stalks and then into a sealed cup of bark. In the cup the steam would condense in the “roof” made of big leaves and mud and drip down in the mug. Then when all the water in the sauce pan had boiled away I could fill it again. It worked! Since my sealing wasn’t full proof some of the steam got lost so it took a lot of dirty water to produce a little drinkable water. The same day I built a proper shelter that was almost waterproof and very comfortable actually. I also started making small traps to set out.
From this day on everything went better and better. Instead of eating insects alive, I killed them and put them on a rock beside the fire where they would dry. When they were like a dry leaf I grinded them into flour that I could pour on my pieces of bark, it became much easier to eat. In my traps I caught a few crows that I would grill and top with insect flour. Every night I sat under the huge tree on the little hill in my little house made of branches beside the fire looking out over the surroundings. Some evenings it was quiet as in the grave and lonely, some I had company of some wild animal lurking in the dark and other time the rain would make your ears go numb when it hammered the trees and ground. Some nights the stars and moon were completely stunning and some it was all pitch black. I like to think I talked to nature those nights, it sure felt like it. It was only cause of nature I had got this far, it was nature that showed me the way to water, it showed me that beam and it gave me all the items to build this distillation device.
During the first week the “come and get me button” on the GPS device had been so tempting so many times, during the last week, specially at those evening hours I felt like throwing it away and never come back to society. One thing that nature though never could provide was human company, something you’ll be craving for after 14 days in isolation. On the day I wrote this, one year ago I was lying on the ground on my little hill enjoying the sun there was a sound of steps approaching through the woods. It was the leaders, and I was going home.
PS: This is written by my friend. He told me about his experiences which were interesting so I asked him to share them with you’ll. I hope you’ll will enjoy it as much as I did. And give your views about it.