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Man vs Wild

Surviving the outdoors can be a real challenge. But for Bear Grylls and Les Stroud it’s a way of life. Mini Pant Zachariah tells more.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2009 22:18 IST
Mini Pant Zachariah

Iss jungle se mujhe bachao

(Save me from this jungle) is the statement one is least likely to hear from adventurer and survival expert Bear Grylls, 35. He’s the chap who hangs from cliffs and gets swept away by rapids and battles snakes in the line of work, for a reality show called

Man vs Wild

on Discovery Channel. Is there anything on earth that this man fears?

Grylls’ answer, via email, is as unexpected as it is amusing. “I find big cities quite intimidating. Going into kind of big social situations with lots of people I don’t know, I find that quite awkward. I find it quite difficult being really personal with people when I don’t know them. In many ways those sort of things, I find harder than close encounters with crocodiles or sharks.”

So when you watch Grylls airdropped into the Tundra, journey through Sahara or battle the torturous swamps of Indonesia, you’d understand why this man prefers the wilds.

Grylls has had his share of close shaves with death. “The wild is always unpredictable. Jumping on the back of 16-foot man-eating tiger sharks, or trying to get on top of alligators, deal with nine-foot boa constrictors, I’ve had lots of those moments,” he says.

Grylls still thinks his stint in the Costa Rican jungle was a hard one because he fell sick with diarrhoea .“I think when your health is not there, it’s really hard. Jungles are pretty intimidating places anyway, they can be so claustrophobic as well.”

But at least Grylls has the company of the small camera crew for comfort. In Survivorman that premieres on August 6, survival expert Les Stroud, 47, spends nine harrowing weeks alone in a variety of survival simulations with nothing but some camera gear to document his experiences. The challenge in each episode is to search for food, water, and materials to make fire and shelter while being extremely vigilant to the real threat of wild animals.

This man should know a thing or two about survival. Stroud started his career as a music video producer in 1980 but made a clean break seven years later to work as a canoe guide and wilderness instructor.

Along with wife Sue Jamison, Stroud lived in the forests of North Ontario for a full year as if they were living 500 years ago —“with no metals, no matches, no plastics — just nature on its own terms”. The experience, that taught Stroud a lot about survival, is captured in an hour-long documentary, Snowshoes and Solitude.

Grylls too has survived similar situations. But in 1997, he entered the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest, aged only 23. Grylls’s blog of March 14, 2009, after shooting in Alabama swamps, reads: “The shoulder was sore but didn’t hold me back and I figured that the way to approach the show was flat out. It is like playing rugby: it is when you are tentative that you get injured; but when you commit 100 per cent to tackles and the game then you generally survive better.”