Intrigued by survival stories once again, I decided to look at Outside Magazines many stories recorded. A particular one caught my attention, one about two men who got lost in the Amazon on a 78 mile hike for 51 days. This story is about a pair of guys who set out to complete this hike, but rather got lost and lived even though they only brought enough food for the 11 days they had budgeted for the trek, a compass, a machete, a 60-square-foot tarp, and two hammocks. They collected water from the rain, kept a fire constantly going because they only had one lighter, and ate mostly plants, beetles, spiders, and one turtle. At first, they waited for the rescue mission, but after 40 days they decided something needed to be done. An unfortunate miscalculation of eating a venomous spider and not cooking the venom off lead to intestinal poisoning and the loss of 57 pounds. What is amazing to me is not just that they survived the 51 days, but the way they managed to do it. One of the guys, Andrew Taber, talks about how they had to change in order to survive–and the way he describes it is by becoming more primal. He describes the desperate drive to eat anything, do anything for that small chance that they might end up in the right place. He says that tapping into the survival instinct is the most necessary thing.
What’s interesting is looking at this story in relation to Thayer Walker’s own experience and our discussions in class, is that it seems like it isn’t possible to actually survive such a story. Did they do it well? It seems to be that they didn’t, they became very ill and barely made it out alive. But they did survive, they lived to tell that story, so maybe that itself means they did it well. Walker seems to think his attempt was unsuccessful, but he never tapped into his survival instinct. His attempt was not as “successful” as the Amazon story, and maybe it’s because he knew he always had a way out. Maybe, as humans, that is what we are missing as we’ve evolved and changed more to our own societies away from nature– we no longer have full access to that survival instinct on a natural level. Perhaps, we cannot tap into that primal survival instinct unless we are truly in danger, and for most people that’s why we cannot survive back in nature.