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Call of the wild

Bear Grylls is a natural survivor and loves being stranded in inhospitable terrain. This is how he does it



TOUGH GUY Bear Grylls

Through the television series ‘Man Versus Wild’ (on Discovery Channel), Bear Grylls has gained a reputation for daredevilry. He brings upon himself situations most people cringe from. With just a pen knife to defend himself, he allows him self to be stranded in some of the most inhospitable parts of the world. The fact that the camera is trained on him does not make his adventures less real. The television crew does not intervene when Grylls is exposed to danger. Grylls says, in an email interview, that in every episode of this television programme, violent death is a possibility.

He had a narrow escape recently. “Two weeks ago, I found myself on the back of a seven-foot alligator in the Louisiana swamp. To leave the waters alive, I had to make the best use of a pen knife made blunt by overuse. I managed to kill the alligator, but I should admit I was scared to the bone. I don’t allow fear to rule my mind, but use it to sharpen my ability to tackle difficult situations,” says Grylls. “Filming for a desert island show off the Indonesian coast, I was free diving down a coral reef. Seeing a stingray had me on the horns of a dilemma. ‘Should I get this stingray or bypass it?’ I could not help thinking Steve Irwin was killed by one. I dived down and speared it and it was my meal for the night.”

Does Grylls cope with difficult situations by drawing from a resource of survival techniques devised in advance? Or, does he take them as they come?

“This is the only technique I have — ‘Just look at it, assess it. Look at it again and assess it again. Listen to your instinct a little bit and then work out exactly how to tackle it.’ Survivors are not people with the most knowledge. I very much believe it is not about knowledge, but determination. Even those stranded in the middle of a jungle after a plane crash, completely ill-equipped, make it. Great survivors are people who have a fierce determination to stay alive. All of us have the survival instinct, but only a few of us have the opportunity to test it.”

Grylls is gastronomically adventurous too and his list of exotic meals staggers the imagination. He knows the taste of raw insects, a deer carcass and yak’s eyeballs. Grylls clarifies, “To be honest, I really don’t relish yak’s eyeballs or a goat’s testicles. But when you are faced with hunger and have few options, you have to swallow your prejudices.”

The weirdest meal till date is a big snake he devoured a few weeks ago. Blood was dripping from the reptile as Grylls sunk his teeth into it. “I am not like this at home. I subsist on normal food.”

Did Grylls attract the name ‘Bear’ because of his love of the wild? “I was christened Eddie, which became Teddy. And finally, it became Bear!”

With a father who was determined to make an adventurer of his son, Bear was born do the kind of stuff he does. Does he see himself doing the same well into old age?

“I don’t know. I was into adventure much before television cameras came. I guess I would be doing the same much after they are gone.”

PRINCE FREDERICK

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