It’s ‘You vs Wild’ in Queenstown

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Ex-pop bodyguard launches ‘Man vs. Wild’ survival courses

A backcountry expert is teaching people how to survive in the wild like British adventurer Bear Grylls. 

Pete Hitchman, 50, demonstrates essential and quirky survival skills on his new You vs. Wild wilderness experience. 

These include how to make a fire using just toothpaste and a Coke can, survive falling into a frozen lake and navigate by the stars. 

Operated through Queens-town’s Guided Nature Walks – the oldest guiding firm in the country – the walks are inspired by the hugely-popular TV show Man vs. Wild. 

The series follows Grylls as he demonstrates extreme survival techniques after being stranded miles from civilisation. 

Hitchman says: “We teach skills that can help keep people alive. 

“Such as how to make a bivouac shelter, or filter water using a plastic bottle and moss. 

“People get caught out round here. There are a huge number of search and rescue operations on Ben Lomond. 

“It looks like a nice walk but if the weather changes it’s easy to get in trouble.” 

A 1980s bodyguard for pop group Duran Duran, Hitchman came to New Zealand 15 years ago. 

He trained at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in Turangi, completing courses in leadership, risk management and search and rescue. 

“When I worked as a bodyguard I used to go up into the hills and play survival games with two ex-SAS soldiers.
“My interest stemmed from there.” 

In a world of supermarkets and GPS mobiles, Hitchman says people still yearn to learn how to live off the land. 

“There’s a fascination with self-sufficiency. It gives people a sense of empowerment. 

“There’s been great interest from tourism agents.” 

The half-day walks in groups cost $140 per person, while a privately-guided experience is $240. 

Longer walks with Hitchman can also be arranged through the firm. 

And how do you make a fire from toothpaste and a can? 

“You rub the toothpaste on the concave surface at the bottom. 

“It takes off the top layer of aluminium. 

“You can then use it like a refractor and bounce the sun off it.”