In a survival situation, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t make it out alive. I’m just not incredibly practical or resourceful.
If I’m ever stranded high on an Andean plateau after a plane crash, my greatest possible contribution would be to become a hearty high-protein meal for the rest of the group.
So I’m probably not the ideal candidate to enjoy a You vs Wild guided nature walk in the hills around Queenstown.
But at least I’ve been assured I won’t be required to drink my own urine or eat a kiwi.
Operated by back-country expert Pete Hitchman, 51, through Queenstown Guided Nature Walks – the oldest guiding firm in the country – the walks are of course inspired by the hugely-popular TV show Man vs Wild.
That series follows Brit adventurer Bear Grylls as he demonstrates extreme survival techniques, stranded miles from civilisation.
You vs Wild isn’t nearly as extreme thankfully – just a four-hour hike along the Mt Crichton loop track, off the
Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, up to gold miner Sam Summers’ Hut.
We set off at 8.30 on a beautiful crisp winter morning. Hitchman, a former bodybuilder and Duran Duran bodyguard, explains the golden rules of survival.
Three’s the magic number. You can survive three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter (in poor conditions), three days without water and three weeks without food.
So finding shelter, water and food is essential and as soon as you’re in a survival situation you should be planning ahead – picking potential tinder from suitable plants, edible berries, collecting drinkable water, and scouting a route.
With that in mind, we’re shown about a dozen different plants which can be used for food or to help treat anything from dysentery to depression. The seeds of one plant, the Great Mullein, can even be used to fish – releasing a toxin that disables fishes’ respiratory system but is not harmful to humans.
We’re also told what to avoid – particularly Tutu, which contains a neurotoxin.
French traveller Emmanuelle asks if some bright purple mushrooms are edible. Pete replies: “Well, you can eat them once.”
After coffee, cookies and demonstrations of how to start a fire using indigenous firewood Mahoe (Whitey wood), a mobile phone battery and alcohol-based hand wash, we head back.
Pete’s a wealth of information about bush skills and crams a lot into four hours – how to navigate by the sun and stars, set fish traps with a plastic bottle, make a can cooker.
The walk itself is through stunning countryside.
Pete admits, though, much of the skills and knowledge would take some serious field-based practice before they could be utilised.
One example is using a boomerang-shaped stick to hunt rabbit.
I couldn’t hit a duck with a shotgun in May, so I’ll put attempting to knock out a rabbit by throwing a bent stick
towards the bottom of my survival skills list.
Still, a fascinating few hours overall.