#38) How to Survive in the Amazon

Posted on Posted in Blog, Season 1, Travel

Time: 3 Days

Cost: $100

Difficulty: Incredibly

Increase in Mosquito Bites: Too Many to Count

3 Days in the Amazon with a Machete and a Backpack

This is a story of a boy entering the jungle, and exiting three days later as a man. That is, if the distinction between boy and man is that a man has hundreds of mosquito bites on his back and hasn’t eaten for 3 days.

“The [jungle] did not tolerate frailty of body or mind. Show your weakness, and it would consume you without hesitation.”

– Tahir Shah, House of the Tiger King: The Quest for a Lost City

Though my experience was not nearly as intense as the individuals chronicled in Mr. Shah’s novel (16 weeks in the jungle), during my three day trek I felt the beginnings of what his quote and book was ment to communicate. When you are in the jungle, you are 100% responsible for your own survival, and if you stop forging for food and water, or choose the location of your shelter incorrectly, or just happen to choose the wrong vine to drink out of, it could easily cost you your life. As our guide Choco said many times “Todo es posible en la jungla”. And for that reason, here is a list of things I learned during my stay that you can do to increase your chances of survival given a surprise visit to the Amazon.

The Essentials

What are the essentials of in order to survive? In case you missed your intro Psych class (or slept through it), here is Maslow’s opinion on what you need to survive.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Assuming that you are not going into the jungle naked, and that it is not burning down removing your ability to breath, according to Maslow, the other main things you need to worry about are shelter food, and water. Some of which are much easier to come by than the other….

1. Shelter

What do you mean there’s no Wifi in our stick shelter?

Welcome home amigo.

Probably the easiest of the three to acquire, shelter is both incredibly important, and essential too ensuring protection from the elements, insects and any wild animals that may wander by. In the jungle, the structures we built served as an object to shelter us from the rain, blend in with the environment and act as a place to hang our mosquito nets.

Those sweet, sweet mosquito nets.

As well, at the opening of the shelter we had a fire, whose purpose was to cook food (obviously) as well as scare away any large animals that may take an interest in eating us. Thank you fire!

2. Food

Holy smokes is food hard to come by.

Unfortunately meat doesn’t grow on trees…

Even though you are constantly surrounded by life, and sustenance, non of it is easy to acquire. The animals are quick, the fruit is too high to reach, the bugs are sneaky (or posionous) and the fish are few and for between. For some reason nothing alive in the jungle is too excited about giving up its life to feed you…

That said, it appeared as though the best way to stay fed by the jungle is through fishing.

“Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he won’t catch anything for three days and an eagle will eat all his bait.”


Though we didn’t have much success with the whole fishing game, we were able to get enough for 5 people to last three days. Which, according to Choco (our guide) was much more than if we had focused our time on clamping around the jungle trying to hunt a pig or look for mushrooms. But enough of food, onto water!

3. Water

What do you mean you can’t drink out of the river?

i-immediately-regret-this-decisionI mean it’s called the “Rain Forrest”, what the hell? They should call it…”The Everything Wants to Kill You Forest”…HA!

Once again, the jungle has made something that was once simple, into an annoyingly complicated and difficult process. Through my time in the jungle, the hunger was relatively easy to get used to…the thirst was not. Even after bringing 2 litres of water, the environment in the jungle causes you to sweat a lot, drink a lot, and in effect run out of water very quickly. But, like many things in the jungle, there is a solution.  You’re just going to have to try a bit harder than you do at home. Here’s the two we used.

  1. Vines: Not all vines though, as shown in the video, some are super poisonous…so be careful with that.
  2. Bamboo: I don’t understand it, and I won’t pretend to. All I know is that sometimes bamboo has water in it, and that if you’re thirsty, knock dat stuff down with your machete and enjoy the sweet nectar of the jungle.

What Did I Learn?

When it comes down to it, I spent three days in the Jungle with a guide who did most of the surviving for us. To call it “survival is a stretch”, but that aside, I still took an incredible amount out of the experience.

  1. To start, I learned that if you know what to look for in the jungle, there is a medicine, food or drug for just about anything there. Its natures Wal-Mart.
  2.  Secondly, though there was a ton of help from the guide, I feel much more prepared to survive in the jungle after this experience. Just having a basic understanding of how to build shelter, where to look for food and water
  3. As well, I gained an immense appreciation for what we have back in Western civilization. After 3 days of trekking, with only one fish and some vegetation split between five people, the idea of being able to come back home and buy a steak supper and beer with ingredients from all around the world was incredible to me. Going back to Maslow’s hiearchy of needs, when you have a mass deficient of your basic needs, it is difficult to be creative, intimate or even think too much about anything other than catching a fish, finding a maggot or cutting down bamboo for water. Before the Amazon, I don’t think I ever truly experienced this level of essential poverty…but I’m so glad I did. If you’ve never felt this feeling before, I would suggest giving it a try. I’m committing myself to doing something like this four times a year, the gained perspective of deep gratitude is totally worth it.
  4. And lastly, I learned that mosquitoes are the true kings of the jungle.

 Anyways, thanks for reading , I hope you enjoyed and happy learning.

Talk next week



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