Tips Toplis

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If we were to take advice from anyone about how to survive in the jungle, it would definitely be Ed Stafford.

The only man to have ever successfully walked the entire length of the Amazon, Stafford knows a thing or two about what we should do if we ever find ourselves in a sticky jungle-based situation.

Here are his top five tips:

1. Never run out of salt. Whether it’s for preservation of meat or flavouring a piranha broth, salt is vital to keep the body working correctly.

2. Dig for water. When it’s low water season and all the small creeks are dry the next water source is never far from your mind. If you don’t have accurate maps then you have to be able to think outside the box if the next river never comes. Sometimes you’ll hear the rumble of thunder and be saved by a deluge that you can use to collect water from your rain fly: a 10 minute downpour can yield 30 litres – enough to wash, cook, drink and fill your bottles for the next day. Sometimes you’ll be in places with nice thick water vines that will give you a vital rehydration. If you don’t have such luck and need fluid urgently you can dig a hole in a muddy area and allow it to fill with muddy water. This can be carefully scooped out when the mud has settled and purified to drink withing 20 minutes.

3. Keep your lighter waterproof. Leave rubbing sticks or using a flint striker to the romantics. The savvy jungle local will never be without his lighter, often kept waterproof in an old plastic tobacco pouch. I carried a flint striker for 860 days through the jungle and never had to use it once as my lighter was always on me and always dry.

4. Keep your machete sharp. Think of sharpening your machete like going to the gym. You can skip it a few times and get away with it. But neglect your fitness regime over the long term and you’ll become unfit and out of shape. In the same way a sharp machete will make the day’s cutting easier and actually less dangerous. The sharper your machete is, the less force you need to use and the more efficient you are.

5. Learn how to identify palm hearts. Fishing, once you have the knack, is easy. Finding carbohydrate can be much more or a problem which is why most locals go into the Amazon rainforest with bags of farine (local carbohydrate made from manioc). If you run out of carbs your energy will start to drop fast and even if you are eating fish your body will be crying out for carbs. Palm hearts can be a life-saver and although I would only advocate cutting them down when you run out of food (as you have to cut down the whole palm), this salad vegetable will have never tasted so good if you’ve been hungry for days.

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