While flying over the Amazon jungle it happens: The glider starts to roll and crashes into the treetops. Now it’s time to keep your nerves and get into the adventure! Because those who do not panic have a particularly good chance of surviving.
All those who end up rudely in the jungle thicket should by no means go crazy! There are many dangers lurking in the „Green Hell“, but you can survive them with a little luck and common sense. Sharpen your senses and check the situation! As well as finding out by all means: Where am I? Where am I going?
As you can only see ten to 30 meters in the jungle and often you can’t even see the sky, small elevations are a good way to get a better view. But better not climb trees! In the dense branches there are often poisonous creatures that can put a quick end to the adventure.
In order not to run around in circles, it is better to walk purposefully towards a prominent object further away. At the same time, you should remember from which direction you came by looking at a large tree or something similar.
When running downhill, you often come across a small stream that becomes a river and leads out of the jungle. It is important not to constantly change direction during the march, but only if the path really leads nowhere. Every hour counts if one wants to get through the hell trip unharmed.
If there are longer breaks at one place, one should mark the trees when leaving the camp for a short time, bend branches at eye level, pile up stones and so on, in order not to get hopelessly lost in the thicket. If it happens nevertheless, there is only one thing to do: keep calm and concentrate well. Because in the jungle it is not the strongest that survives, but the most intelligent.
Search for water
Without water, humans survive about three days. So you have to search for water in a hurry. But no matter how great the temptation and thirst: never bathe in stagnant tropical waters, let alone drink from them! Here, besides dangerous animals such as poisonous snakes and crocodiles, worm-like parasites lurk, which bore into the skin and lead to the disease schistosomiasis.
Water from fast-flowing streams and rivers is rather an option. But even if swimming fish, crabs and so on indicate that the water is edible, you should boil it for five minutes if possible to kill parasites or at least filter it provisionally with the help of clothing.
Those who do not have a creek in the proximity, help themselves otherwise with mother nature: Catch with a leaf drinkable rain water that drips down the branches and tree trunks. It is also possible to produce condensed water by sealing plants airtight in a plastic bag (if available). However, this is only for emergencies, as the water tastes rather rotten.
If there is no water to be found, there is only one thing that helps: dig a hole in the muddy bottom and wait until it fills up with water. After a few minutes the mud will settle on the bottom and the water can be skimmed off and drunk within the next 20 minutes.
There are plenty of plants and fruits in the tropical rain forest. The only question is: Which of them can you eat and which are poisonous? As a rule of thumb (but it is not a hundred percent guarantee of survival): fruits that are eaten by monkeys are usually edible for humans as well.
An „allergy test“ also helps: If, for example, the skin already reacts irritated to a certain plant juice, it is better not to eat it! If you are not sure, it is better not to eat the sprouts and shoots that lie under the ground. They are tastier and more tender than the above-ground plants.
It is better to stay away from bitter tasting plant species, bright red berries, plants that secrete a milky juice or are hairy. Again, it is better to boil the plants for five minutes, pour off the water several times and top up with fresh water, than to make a fatal mistake and eat the perhaps poisonous plant raw.
If you want to give your plant food that certain something with maggots, insects and worms à la Jungle Camp, you should not gobble up too many of these delicacies at once. Although almost all of them are harmless and often nutritious, they can also trigger allergies.
In the sultry heat one would like to walk around half-naked. But that would be a fatal mistake. In the tropics, the sun is vertically above the horizon at midday and strikes mercilessly. Within a very short time your body would be dried out; you would not only get sunburned but also get a sunstroke – and in the worst case, die. Therefore: always keep your clothes on, even if it is difficult, and above all cover your head, for example with a T-shirt hanging down on the left and right.
Another reason for this heroic measure is the mosquitoes buzzing around, which can transmit malaria, among other things. Without malaria prophylaxis, a mosquito net and insect repellent, you are defenseless against the dangerous pests.
The only thing that helps is to cover every square centimeter of skin with fabric, especially at dusk and after sunset. If you have a camphor tree nearby, you can smear the sap from leaves and twigs on your skin. This is better than nothing, but also not very effective, as some experts think. Under no circumstances scratch after being stung, so that the sting does not get infected!
And what applies to clothing also applies to shoes: if you walk barefoot through the jungle, you risk your life. You don’t even have to step on a poisonous spider; a few thorns are enough to get infected and become seriously ill. Even waters can be waded through – if at all – only completely dressed!
Campfire is a „must“
In the tropics there is a shift in the shaft no later than 6 pm. To continue walking in the dark would be dangerous. So there is only one thing to do: dig a hole, collect firewood and make a campfire. Because if you don’t light a fire in the evening, hungry big cats and other predators will find food for their prey at night.
But the fire not only keeps the beasts at bay. It also gives warmth to tired jungle adventurers. Here they can recover from the exertions, boil water to kill parasites and bacteria, and sizzle some tasty insects and other delicacies.
But now comes the most important question: How does a modern person start a fire without a lighter, matches or burning glasses? There are two methods – fire striking and fire drilling. The first method is easier, but could fail because you can’t find the necessary equipment in the jungle. And with the latter method, it is best to start practicing in broad daylight, because success often comes only after many persistent attempts.
When you are hitting fire – which many tried out as children – you look for a flint and a pyrite (pyrite / cat gold) or marcasite. A steel file or other utensils made of steel with a high carbon content will also do it – if available, of course. If you hit the flint against the minerals or the fire steel, the sparks will spark and have to be caught with something flammable (like hay). You blow on them carefully, add wood and the little fire starts to burn.
When drilling the fire, rub hard wood against softer wood. To increase the friction, you can also spread sand on the rubbing surface. If everything goes well, the resulting wood dust starts to glow and ignites when you blow on the fire. By adding wood the fire is created.
But please do not forget: In order not to burn down the forest, always put stones around the fireplace, keep an eye on the campfire and suffocate it completely before continuing on!
Build a night camp
At night, of course, you can spend the night outdoors, marvel at the sparkling starry sky and enjoy the solitude in magnificent nature. But the fun quickly stops when it starts to pour down and/or scorpions, snakes, poisonous ants and other annoying creatures come together bit by bit in the night camp. Not to mention starving big cats that have been lying in wait in the thicket all the time and now get the victim presented ready to eat.
Since there is still time for romance even after the jungle adventure, it is better to think about safety and well-being now and build a temporary emergency shelter. Clearings with some water nearby (but no river or lake teeming with crocodiles!) are best suited for this purpose. It is also important that there are no dilapidated trees in the vicinity, which could fall on the hut at the first gust of wind.
For the scaffolding of the hut you need a few logs and branches, for the roof also branches, leaves and palm fronds. Lianas and tree bark hold the whole construction together. To keep the uncomfortable feeling within limits, it is worthwhile to build a kind of bed a few centimetres above the ground with rods and straw.
If you don’t feel like building a bed for the night but happen to have a poncho with you, you can stretch the garment between four trees as protection against rain or throw it over a liana stretched between two trees and fasten it to the ground with sticks.
Use a stick
A large stick is part of the basic equipment in the jungle, because it proves to be a true all-rounder under these extreme conditions. Not only does it help tired hikers to walk. With its help you can also divide the branches and you don’t run the risk of touching sharp thorns with your bare hands, risking an infection or even being bitten by poisonous spiders or snakes.
But you also feel safer with it. Because no matter how carefully you move through the jungle, how far ahead you look when you run and try to guess behind every bush, who or what is lying in wait, you are not immune to attacks by wild animals. If you are attacked, you have to strike with your weapon, nothing helps. But many a predator is said to have escaped even at the sight of a large stick …
Even in the evening you cannot do without your faithful companion: Crocodiles often roam near water, suddenly appearing out of nowhere and trying to drag their victims into the water. Under no circumstances should this happen! If there is no time to run away, don’t be squeamish and punch the crocodile in the nose! Sometimes the beasts will run away…
Be on your guard
Walking through the jungle is not a child’s birthday party: If you are not careful, it can be over … So you should never walk carelessly through thick grass, into hollow tree trunks, holes in the ground and branches or sit on the ground without having had a look at the location. Sounds and loud stomping usually help to drive away poisonous snakes and spiders. But there are also a few representatives who do not move and attack when harassed.
Also very important: the view upwards. More people die in the jungle from falling trees and huge branches than from snake or spider bites.
And another tip: Before you slip into your clothes and put on your shoes, always shake them off, because scorpions or poisonous spiders could be hiding there. Also the temporary night camp has to be checked before every night’s rest.
At rivers, lakes or ponds you also have to be careful: avoid bathing if possible because of the crocodiles hanging around, which you often don’t see in the murky water or are mistaken for tree trunks! And of course also because of the many other dangerous water inhabitants, for example piranhas, anacondas, leeches and electric eels.
Charge your batteries
Everyone wants to get out of the Green Hell as quickly as possible so as not to expose themselves to further dangers. But despite the pressure of time, in this extreme situation, in which the (Central European) body reaches its limits, recovery phases are also essential: Anyone who walks for hours in the heat with a growling stomach through the jungle with a high salt loss and excessive exertion will not get far.
No one knows exactly when the odyssey will end. Therefore, it is important to keep your strength up as much as possible! Physical exhaustion makes the will to survive disappear, and this must be avoided at all costs!
So, rather sleep through the night, as far as that is possible under the circumstances, and take a few breaks along the way, than run through the forest completely overtired and unable to assess dangers properly. Exactly then you step on a poisonous snake or hurt yourself in the thicket of sharp thorns.
Positive thinking is very important, even if it is difficult. When you are desperately fighting your way through the bushes again and would like to give up, it helps to think of something nice, like the last party with friends, a great concert or the gourmet holiday in France. You can have it all back if you are pesistent!
Of course, everyone is hoping for his miraculous rescue. But the probability of being found in the middle of the impassable jungle is not excessively high. Nevertheless it is worthwhile to give smoke signals in a clearing during the day.
The smoke is created by burning fresh grass, leaves, damp wood or tree moss. To let it rise vertically is only possible with several people and a wet poncho, for example, which is held at a safe distance above the flames. Once the smoke has accumulated underneath, the poncho is removed and the smoke rises to the top.
Deep in the forest, however, the action is not so effective because no helicopter or plane can detect the smoke signals from above or at most confuse them with wafts of mist. But campfires lit at night are sometimes even seen from an airplane.
When a rescue team finally approaches from the air, a smoke signal is used to announce „I am in distress“ by letting smoke rise three times at short intervals and covering the fire with a wet palm leaf for a few seconds between each ejection. Other codes can be used to signal that you need medicine, food, water, are injured, cannot go any further, or will continue in a certain direction.
In order to leave traces on the ground for the rescuers, one breaks off branches on the way and piles up stones at the wayside. But from now on, no one has to worry about anything, because the rescuers are on their way and provide the deserved happy end of the adventure.