Leaving Cardiff at half past eight this morning, the drive to Swansea throught the country side was beautiful. Swansea is nestled in the Gower Region, the first place in the UK to be designated as a place of Outstanding natural beauty. Having spent the day wandering around, I can certify it is.
So, getting back to the drive from Cardiff to Swansea, Steve Griffin, a fantastic blue badge guide who runs Griffin Guiding has been with us since we reached wales, driving us around and showing us around. I decided to ride in the front with him, after listening to some of the quirky and off-beat facts he knows about Wales. While most people would notice the cows and the sheeps and the beautiful grass during the drive, I spotted the little town where Anthony Hopkins was born. Yes, he is Welsh. Did you know that? Thank you Steve for educating me about the Hollywood trail, Big Cheese Festival, Welsh architecture and the Tata Steel plant in Wales.
Here is Steve, completely alert (without a Red Bull)…
Reaching Swansea, we spent an hour looking through the Gower Heritage Centre, which captures the beautiful history of mills in the area, from the Norman times. With water powered milling et all showcased in the litte miller’s cottage, this is as quaint as it can get. The oak used in the renovation of this little mill was from a tree, that got blown away by the storm in1989. Transported back into time. From the corn and wood mill, we got a little tour of the wool centre, where they still kept the traditional weaving tools and the handloom ones as well. The entire place looks like a blast from the past. Check out the little store out front for curios from the region.
So, without any further adieu, I’ll come straight to the challenges of Day 2 of the Great Welsh Showdown. Surving in the Wild. Training under the wonderful instructors Andy and Rick from Dryad Bushcraft, we spent the day in the woods of the Gower region, learning how to survive in the wild. When you think of survival, you think of 3 things – Food, Shelter and Clothing. Unless a big bad wolf ran away with your clothes when you were skinny dipping in the middle of nowhere, I’m hoping clothing would not be an issue. So, lets get to the basics. Food and Shelter.
The point is if you are lost in the woods and can’t figure out which leaf to eat, hunt for berries 🙂
Hold on. I remember one more thing. Willow is the same one used to make cricket bats. And, incidentally, you can crush the Willow leaves and make some medicine for headaches. Do you see the connection. Cricket and Headaches. Cricket and Headaches. I shall not exaggerate.
So, apart from eating, lets talk about 1 more interesting way in which these plants can help you survive. Imagine you are lost in the woods, or even better, you have been kidnapped by some naxals.. for simplicity, you are Aishwarya Rai kidnapped by Achishek Bachchan in Raavan and you are already pained by the bad sound track “beera… beera.. beera…”. If you were her, what woud you have done? Go look for the Nettle plant and remove the tiny branches and the leaves. Once you have the stem with you, you need to punchture the nodes of the stem till its completely flat and flexible. Then, you peel out the layers till you have nothing but amazing nettle fibre. Now, you start weaving rope out of this. Andy, our instructor had woven a rope out of the Nettle plant and hung on a cliff (I think). He was featured on History Channel doing that. It took him a week. Had Aishwarya Rai done the same thing instead of stupidly diving from the cliff and landing on a tree, she could have escaped and the movie would have ended, for our benefit.
Worst case, she got tired weaving, she could have stopped at Friendship bands and sweet talked the other gundas into letting her go. Either way, learn to weave before you hit the woods.
Check out Andy teaching us how to make Friendship bands 🙂
After all these superb tips from me, I am pretty sure you have no idea which plant to eat in the wild. My only advice is – Go find a rabbit. (PETA and any other hunting boardz, forgive me)
Seriously, apart from food, it’s really important that you know how to start a fire. Especially, for someone like me, I amsure I would have packed 1 kilo of coffee powder and forgotten my fleece. Starting a fire helps with both – making a good cup of coffee or tea or whatever and keeping yourself warm. Unless ofcourse you have a serial smoker with you, the chances you would have a lighter is minimum. Anyway, its always good to know the techniques people used in the goold ole days. There are several techniques, but my favourite is the the Friction Bow Drill, which I think is the oldest…. dating back to more than 100000 years. It looks like those Gopikas are churning butter from a pot full of milk. Only difference, you have a bow churning a pencil shaped piece of wood against another till it produces some combustible dust. Then, all you need to do is gather this dust and put it in between some dry grass and keep blowing into it till it turns into fire.
Check out this video – Smoking Grass..
Hmmmm, I think it may just be wise to carry matches. Don’t you think?
Last but not the least, you need a roof over your head. Assuming you don’t have a tent and its pouring like hell, you should know how to make a shelter using debris. It was rather easy for us to build a shelter cause our guides had already taken us to a site where there were cut branches and piles of leaves, ready to use. I guess in reality, you need to collect all the drift. Get the drift?
Steps to making a shelter that won’t collapse on you –
- Find a y shaped stick and make it stand up at one end. Ensure it is straight, by burying a part of it in the earth or piling stones araound the base
- Then, find another long branch to perch on it like the hypoteneuse of a triangle
- Now, you need to slowly balance sticks on either side of the hypotenuse like the roof of a house till you completely cover the sides
- Once thats done, collect all the leaves possible to cover the sticks and the gaps. It’s almost like tiling the roof without tiles. Get some soft leaves to make a comfortable padding for a makeshift bed.
- Then, add the aesthetic touches by making a door curtain with your rain poncho if you have one.. If you really have the time, you can make a sign with pebbles that read ‘No bears allowed’.
Voila – you have your shelter.
That only leaves you with one dilemma. If you are a group and you haven’t figured out your sleeping arrangement, this is the time. Here are tips that come from prior exprience (Copyrighted by Ninja) to sleeping well in confined spaces –
- Figure out who goes to the bathroom most often and get them to sleep next to the door
- Figure out who flails their arms and legs here and there and keep them furthest from you
- Figure out who wakes up earliest and leave the kettle with them so that they can wake you up with bed tea
And, most importantly, to survive in the wild, figure out who snores and keep them outside your shelter.
Phew ! All these survival tips and they still haven’t told me how I am going to manage surviving jumping off a cliff tomorrow. If you have any survival tips for me on that one, leave me a comment here!