You are planning your trip to Namibia, bags are packed, the tickets are booked and you are ready to go! And even though you will be staying in lodges or hotels and be escorted through the country by expert guides or will only be moving along urban areas, that little voice in the back of your mind keeps whispering ‘What if?’
And you know the ideas that are swirling around in your head are as unfounded as wondering if you could outrun a zombie in the apocalypse. However the thoughts remain and one which pops up so frequently is ‘What if I get lost in the bush?’ Well first off, please don’t go wandering around on your own if you are not familiar with the area, if you are traveling with tour groups, stick close to your guide because he can keep you safe and answer all the questions you may have about the area.
Having said this, on the highly unlikely chance that you may in fact get lost in the Namibian bushveld, here is what you need to do:
Your very first, ultimately important priority is water. I cannot stress this point enough. The human body can only survive for two to three days without water and in the bush you will be sweating a lot, which will dehydrate you even further. You need to find a source of safe, drinkable water. What you can do is find a set of animal tracks and follow them until you reach a water source. Streams and river beds work too, even if they are dried, find the deepest curve of the river and start digging. An underground water source will start pooling at some point. This can also be done by looking for clusters of green trees, where there is greenery, there is water. Also find something to keep your head and shoulders covered, you need to try to avoid heatstroke and sunstroke.
Try to avoid standing pools, as these may be filled with parasites and bacteria, also please by all means do not drink salt water, blood or urine! This will dehydrate you and poison your system which will just make you sick and let’s not think about that too much. An alternative source of water to keep in mind are plant roots, the Bushmen make use of the b! bulb, or other fruits, which is a type of root that stores a lot of water. This is a great way to keep hydrated. If possible keep purifying tablets on your person to make the water safer to drink.
Your next step is finding your way home. Try to gage the direction you were coming from when you got lost, and try to retrace those steps. If you lose your way there are a variety of ways to orientate yourself regarding directions. For instance, if you are navigating during the day, find a termite mound, as these trusty little insects (which also double as a protein rich snack) always build their homes facing north. You can also use the sun and the direction of its movements to orientate yourself. Ultimately, when you find yourself lost in the dark look to the sky for guidance – excuse the cliché – the North Star can point you into the right direction and if you do manage to find a running stream or river, you can follow the direction of the water as villages are often built on river banks.
Food can be a tricky one, depending on how squeamish you are. Worms and termites are a great way to get protein into your system. Be careful of fruits and berries, the ideal situation would be to find a congress of baboons and see what they are eating. This will give you an idea of foods that will be safe for you to eat. There are alternative ways to determine if food is safe for consumption.Another good way to find food is to look for bird nests and take the eggs from the nest.
If you’ve slain a meal and need to cook it (because other than sushi do we really want to eat something raw?) or and this is the more important aspect, you need to stay warm…there are a variety of ways to build a small fire to keep yourself warm and lit and of course to ward off animals. First off you are going to want to get enough wood/fuel for your fire and some dried grass that will be sufficient as a fire starter. Once you have all of that, I would advise you to familiarise yourself with the methods mentioned in this article. It is always a good thing to have a variety of effective ways to solve a problem.
There are countless other things to keep in mind when getting lost; such as finding shelter, avoiding predators and please for goodness’ sake DO NOT try to ‘suck the venom out of a snake bite’ …that will never work. For more tricks of the trade you could consult professionals, such as your guide – who you should be keeping close on hand when venturing into the great unknown, at least it may be the great unknown to you.
If you have any other tips and tricks that could add to the above mentioned, we invite you to share these in the comment section below.