For some, the thought of foraging and hunting for food, building shelter and living outdoors for an entire month seems hellish. For others, it feels like bliss – a chance to leave the stresses of modern life behind and become one with the natural world around them.
The popularity of television series such as SAS: who dares wins and everything presented by Bear Grylls signals that the average Brit is fascinated by the idea of survival strategies (and in the case of Grylls’ antics, like drinking reindeer blood and eating sheep’s eyeballs, disgusted) . But how many of us can make a boat out of a cowhide, or a fishing spear out of a stick and a stone?
Many of the skills that our prehistoric ancestors relied on have been lost over time. In 2020, when instead of building a boat you can have a dinghy delivered by Amazon Prime in a few hours, and when you hunt down the nearest Tesco Express rather than the wildebeest, there is no longer any need to understand the technologies and the tactics that allowed us to evolve into the humans we are today.
Manse Ahmad, survival educator, expeditionary guide and ex-Royal Marine from Oxford, disputes the idea that bushcraft techniques have become useless. “Learning these skills can awaken people and open their eyes to the outside world, to the phenomenal nature and how it will work for you if you are willing to open your eyes to it,” he said. declared. I.
“I strongly believe that once you know the name of something, it makes more sense to you. Once you have a sense of it, you can begin to develop a relationship with the outdoors and eventually have more respect for it.
Ahmad, who offers workshops and classes through his company Wilderness Pioneers, first felt the need to improve his knowledge of the natural world when he ran away from home at the age of 14. year.
Having been raised in a traditional Muslim household, his parents had decided that he should have an arranged marriage – an idea that Ahmad strongly opposed.
His adventure only lasted one night, but after proving his point to his parents, he realized he never wanted to be so vulnerable to the elements again.
Now, to put his skills to the test, Ahmad is one of eight experts taking part in a new experimental Channel 4 series, Surviving the Stone Age: Wilderness Adventure.
More a documentary than a reality TV series, the three-part show sees contestants living off the land in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains for a month, much like our first cousins did 3 years ago, 3 million years ago, through to the emergence of Homo sapiens 300,000 years ago and the end of the Stone Age around 3000 BC.
Ahmad jumped at the chance to participate. “I’ve been developing my skills for years, but apart from a few weekends, it’s very difficult to put them into intensive practice,” he says. “To actually be able to go and exist in the Stone Age is so rare. These opportunities are like gold dust.
After a month of traversing mountains, hunting deer, and building encampments using only Stone Age materials and tools, the group became a tribe.
“The experience has made us a family,” says Ahmad. “We will always be friends. No matter where we are on the planet, we have shared something special and lived a way of life that very few people have the chance to do.
Compared to his experience in the Royal Marines, which he describes more as a “brotherhood” than a family, Ahmad says living as a Stone Age man was “on par, if not better.” Nobody yelled at me this time.
Still, it wasn’t a completely joyful experience. The heat of the Bulgarian countryside was not what most experts were used to dealing with and food rations quickly dwindled.
Since their fishing skills weren’t up to snuff, the tribe decided to move camp in search of big game after two weeks, traversing 2,000m peaks without climbing gear and, importantly, shoes. Exhaustion, illness and freezing temperatures awaited them once they arrived at their new home, where a thunderstorm was brewing.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Ahmad said, adding that he hadn’t been so challenged mentally and physically since joining the armed forces. “In about the third week, I started to miss my loved ones a lot. If someone had asked me if I wanted to go home at that time, I would have said yes. But there was no no cell phones in the Stone Age, so Ahmad had to endure the situation.
He is very happy to have done so. “Once in a while I remember the sights and sounds of the wilderness, the bear walking through camp, the sounds of wildlife, the sounds of the leaves crunching under my feet,” he says wistfully. . “I hope people will see the program and think I’d like to try. It’s such a magical trip.
Surviving the Stone Age: Adventure to the Wild starts Saturday at 7:10 p.m. on Channel 4
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